People Cite Trump as Reports of Hate Crimes Against Muslims and Gays Increase After Election

First came the stealthy knock, carried out under cover of darkness.

Then the sound of footsteps, running away from the house.

And then, the horrible message: “TRUMP is our president now. Get out of our neighborhood now FAGGOTS!!”

I hate that word. I refuse to utter it and hate to even type it. Or share it on social media, which I felt forced to do today.

Corey Hurley found the note, printed in black ink on a piece of plain notebook paper. It was lying at his feet when he opened the door after being awakened at 3 a.m. Thursday morning.
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“I was terrified,” Hurley said during a telephone interview. “I knew things were going to start getting a little crazy . . . but I didn’t know it was going to (happen here).”

When I first read the note, posted on a stranger’s Facebook page, I was carried back to 1992. To the day when I took time off work to visit the principal at Kingwood Elementary School, an hour away from Clarksburg – and begged administrators to stop the harassment and name calling. The same name as appeared on the paper found at Hurley’s feet, paper that any child in America might use to complete a homework assignment. The same word directed at my son, Zach, then age eight.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the last 24 hours have seen a significant increase in reports of hate speech and hate crimes around the country. Most have been directed at Muslims, but some in the gay community are being targeted, too.

Like happened to Hurley – and his partner, Kyle Chester.

And my son, who in didn’t know even what sex was at age eight. Much less sexual orientation. All he knew was that the boys in his class didn’t like him. And my visits to his school, and even later, a letter from my children’s therapist, did little to change that.

“This one that you sent me (that Hurley and Chester received) looks like one of the more aggressive that I’ve seen on the anti-gay front,” Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project, said.

That unit monitors hate crime traffic. Beirich said the Harrison County case is one of “many, many instances we’re hearing about across the country, where people are seemingly victims of what appear to be hate crimes and reference Trump.”
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This is the first time since 2008, when another President took office. “We haven’t seen an outbreak of what looks like hate incidents since Obama was elected,” Beirich said, “when something similar happened.”

But then, the SPLC saw a “rash of hate incidents (against) black people,” because some people were angry about having a black President.

It’s a different dynamic now, though. “In this case,” Beirich said, “people who look like they support Trump or have sympathies with Trump are attacking minorities.”

Numerous reports have been fielded, she said, of “Muslims having their headscarves pulled off and a ton of incidents in schools . . . there seems to be a rash of these incidents across the nation.”

By the time Zach was in high school, the situation was no better. “I always got threatened in high school. I didn’t tell you because you would have just made it worse.”

One day during a break from theatre practice, Zach was walking outside near the football field. The players were tossing a ball around when “one of them threw the ball at my head, and very narrowly missed me.” Zach threw the football “all the way across the football field so they had to go into the woods to get it.”

Some of the players approached Zach as he walked back into the school. One boy wanted to fight. “So I just stood up to them and let him get into my face and I wouldn’t back down.” The football player turned and walked away.

Hurley, a lifelong Harrison County, West Virginia, resident, has never experienced this kind of violence. “It’s always been more accepting,” he said. “I’ve never had any problems with my sexuality from people before, so I was kind of shocked to see that it happened here in Clarksburg.”

Frightened and shocked, Hurley woke up Chester, who took action. The Lexington, Kentucky, native made sure their home was secure – and then told Hurley they had to call the police.

They did. Chester spoke to Deputy Chief James Chamberlain, with the Clarksburg City Police Department. And patrol cars drove by “a couple of times” afterward, but that’s all. When Chester called later this morning, an administrative worker told him the police couldn’t do anything else. Not until, Chester said, they had “concrete evidence as to where it came from or who did it.”

It’s difficult to understand how police could gather concrete evidence when, 12 hours later, no officer had shown up to even begin the investigation. I tried to reach Chamberlain, but he did not return my call. However, not long after, Hurley and Chester did get a phone call. They were told to go to the Clarksburg police station and file an official report. A “very nice” officer collected the hateful note left at their door.

So now, the investigation into a potential hate crime has begun.

Beirich said it’s hard not to link this kind of hatred with the President-elect. “Trump is referenced in some way. If you’re going to use the word ‘Trump,’ you obviously think this is somehow connected to your support of the President-elect . . . Given Trump’s xenophobic, racist, and so on comments during the campaign,” she said, “it’s not surprising that some people would feel emboldened to do these things.”

While the SPLC doesn’t yet have a tally for how much hate speech, or how many hate crimes have occurred since Trump became President-elect, Beirich said it’s “several dozen.”

They don’t yet know how serious it is, but sadly, incidents like these are happening in America’s schools. At all grade levels. “We’re particularly concerned about stuff happening in schools, involving children,” Beirich said. Muslim students, especially, are being targeted. Being told to “get out of the country.”

The SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance program has specific information available for teachers, to help them deal with the backlash.

“It’s tragic to see this happening,” Beirich said, while urging all victims to report such hatred to police, as well as the SPLC. And urging police to officially investigate.

“Any of those kids could have kicked my (butt),” Zach said. “I stood up to them – no, I didn’t back down from them. There’s a big difference.”

I asked him to clarify.

Zach did. “Standing up to someone is when you realize that something bad is happening and you actually confront them about it. Not backing down is just standing your ground if someone confronts you.”

I asked him if it worked.

“It definitely helped,” Zach said. “If I had acted in a different manner, maybe more submissive, they would have tried to do more. But if you let them know you’re not going to back down, they have a little more respect for you.”

Respect. That’s what this boils down to. It’s all Hurley and Chester really want, too. So they’re getting their friends involved, to help spread this message:

“We’re human beings, too, just like everybody else,” Chester said, “and we deserve the same rights and respect that anybody else does, in any neighborhood across the country.”

Editor’s Note: My website is being revamped, and more changes are in the works. So I hope you’ll pardon the mess and be patient, as I iron out all the kinks.

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My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my memoir was released May 7. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

Black or White, Martese Johnson, Elizabeth Daly, Hannah Graham All Harmed in Charlottesville

As I packed my bags for the Virginia Festival of the Book last week, I thought about Hannah Graham. The pretty, freckled 18-year-old University of Virginia student was abducted and murdered last September. Graham has been on my mind since I first heard she was missing, so I wanted to retrace her final steps while I was in Charlottesville. I wanted a way to honor her, and to reflect on the dangers fraught for female college students these days. I didn’t expect to learn so much when I did so.

Hannah Graham (courtesy of c-ville)

I had no idea until I stepped onto the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville how upscale a neighborhood Graham was in when she disappeared. Or, as one resident told me, why Graham wouldn’t have been inside Tempo, the 5th Street SE restaurant where she was supposedly seen for the last time on Sept. 13, 2014. Where the news media camped outside its doors for the next few weeks, as eager for scraps of information as a passing canine would be for leftover beef ribeye scraps.

More important and certainly more unsettling, I learned why Graham’s alleged killer, Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr., would not have been inside Tempo with her. It’s something I haven’t seen in the media, and I’m wondering why reporters are keeping it quiet. Especially the local media, whose connections with townspeople and business owners surely offer them better access to the truth than any big-city reporters. I suppose they really might not know, but that seems a little farfetched.

I was sitting inside Tempo sipping an espresso martini Thursday after listening to Lucinda Franks talk about her marriage to Robert Morgenthau, as part of the panel discussion, “Lives, Loves, and Literature.” A few feet away, a live press conference was taking place. For a crime reporter, there is nothing quite like finding yourself smack dab in the middle of a breaking story that becomes national news. For this crime reporter, who has become very saddened by how badly decent black men who are not criminals are treated, I was glad to be discussing writing and books with a young couple seated at the bar next to me, instead of becoming sadder still, as I’m sure I would have had I attended the press conference.

At the heart of the event was what really happened to Martese Johnson, the 20-year-old black UVA honors student who was thrown to the ground by Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) agents a day earlier, after they claimed he was causing a disturbance. (Witnesses and even the bar owner where Johnson was denied entry say he wasn’t.) What really happened matters, you see, because Johnson was left very bloodied, with a head injury, and 10 stitches to close the gash the agents gave him when they threw him to the ground.

Martese Johnson (courtesy of ABC)

I can’t speak to that incident, but other Charlottesville residents can. “They’re the worst,” one older (white) shop owner said, comparing the ABC agents to thugs. A black engineer I talked to during my four-day stay said race isn’t a factor. Then he told me about Elizabeth Daly, whom ABC agents harassed in 2013 when they thought she was buying alcohol. (It was sparkling water.) Daly was then 20, and also a UVA student.

According to Reuters, “Daly, who is white, filed a $40 million lawsuit, which the state attorney general’s office eventually settled for $212,000.”

Elizabeth Daly (courtesy of NewsPlex.com)

Suffice to say the agency has given itself a very black eye, and this week some federal officials are calling for it to be stripped of its powers. Given how reckless its agents are, is it any wonder?

With the media focus on Martese Johnson, it might be easy to forget about Hannah Graham. But I can’t. In large part because Hannah might still be alive, if not for the fact that local authorities apparently missed the clues so many people saw in Matthews’ odd behavior, down through the years.

For example, I was told that Matthews, who has a lower-than-normal IQ, was regularly refused entry at several local bars. Why would that be? Well, Matthews would show up late at night and try to hit on young, drunk, female college students. No wonder police believe they might have a serial rapist on their hands.

Word got around about Matthews’ tactics, so he was blacklisted from many of the local establishments that serve alcohol. One of which was . . . Tempo.

Speaking of Tempo, it’s a pricey place that serves duck and a clientele of “rich white men,” as one resident told me. Which is why I chose to go inside for a drink, to see for myself. Yep, it sure is. I can’t imagine it being a favored hangout for many—if any—college students. Graham, I am told, was turned away at the door, because she was underage.

And that’s where it seems Matthews found her. He escorted her around the corner, into his car, and . . . that’s the last anyone saw of Hannah Graham.

Matthews—who comes from a well-respected family—has known anger issues. But he is also said to be so nice to some small children he knows well that they couldn’t believe he was possibly connected to Graham’s disappearance—was once asked about his late-night bar tactic. “It levels the playing field,” he supposedly said.

Well, not for Hannah Graham.

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I have four books. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

Sago media speaks out

Journalists were in the hot seat about two months ago, when national headlines made a coal mining tragedy here in West Virginia much worse. Everyone knows that. But what many people may not know is that some of those journalists came to Morgantown six weeks after the Sago Mine disaster, on February 13, to discuss what went wrong. You can hear the entire two-hour panel discussion at the Podcast on this site. It’s well worth listening to, and you may even learn some things you didn’t know.

Like I did, when one panel member spoke about how he was deeply affected by the media mess, as he told the audience how relatives and friends of the Sago miners covered their heads with clothing, to keep from being photographed; kicked over news cameras; and even made obscene gestures to the media.

I think I can understand their reaction. I was swimming the night of January 3, when someone told me the miners were alive. My initial response was disbelief. However, eager and hopeful, I went home and turned on the tube. The reports were everywhere, and they all sounded the same: 12 miners had been found alive.

Three hours later, what had begun as a coal mining disaster had changed into something else: a media fiasco of the worst possible kind, the kind that no editor wants to have happen on his or her watch. Some questions, such as how the wrong information got out to begin with, will never be answered. The fact that such a tragedy could be compounded by erroneous news reports that then spread like wildfire, shows what a delicate balancing act is performed by today’s media. And we don’t always get it right. Unfortunately.

The panel discussion, hosted by West Virginia University’s Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism, and part of this year’s Festival of Ideas, looked at the media’s role at Sago and what went wrong. It featured six people who worked on stories that came out of Sago. This includes Mike Solmsen, a producer, and Sharyn Alfonsi, a correspondent, with CBS News; Derek Rose, a general assignment reporter for New York Daily News; Randi Kaye, an anchor and correspondent for CNN; Scott Finn, the statehouse reporter for The Charleston Gazette and; Mark Memmott, who covers media issues at USAToday.

While the entire evening was captivating, for me, reporter Scott Finn’s comments stood out at night’s end. Because January 2 was a holiday, he was the only person in the newsroom when word of the explosion was received. As he drove from Charleston to Buckhannon, Scott said his thoughts went to what he would find when he arrived, and how he could do justice to a story of this kind:

“I was really concerned about getting it right because I know – and I’ve learned in the last month – just how much West Virginians know about coal mining. How many people have coal mining in their history, in their families. And if people have been around for three or four decades, they’ve been through mine disasters before. And so my main concern was trying to get the story right. To understand enough about what was going on to convey it to an audience that knows about coal mining and also, conceivably knows the miners involved.”

Much as we may try, we don’t always get it right. The Sago story has been a huge lesson learned for all of us. It has taught us that a hallmark of good journalism is, and has to be, accuracy. When the Challenger disaster occurred, an investigation into NASA’s space program later found that groupthink was a contributing cause. Groupthink occurs when several people don’t think independently, but instead allow themselves to be carried along on a wave, with the majority. All too often, that majority turns out to be wrong – leaving the people riding the wave with nothing to do but crash.

I still can’t help but believe – even after listening to the panel members who spoke here – that in the end, groupthink is what caused the wrong headlines, as many journalists lost their ability to be objective.

Maybe the media, along with everyone else, just wanted a miracle a little too much.

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My next book, Guilt by Matrimony, about the murder of Aspen socialite, Nancy Pfister, comes out November 17. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”