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Antisemitic incidents, hate crimes on the rise in California, according to report

There were at least 518 antisemitic acts that targeted Jewish people in California last year, an increase of 41% from 2021, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

More than 500 antisemitic acts targeting Jewish people, including assault, vandalism and harassment, were committed in California last year, an increase of more than 40% from 2021, underscoring a proliferation of hate crimes and extremism in the state, according to a report released Tuesday by the Anti-Defamation League.

The ADL also cited increasing collaboration among extremist and white supremacist groups in a report detailing a wide range of hate crimes and violence. California saw at least six murders by members of extremist groups in 2021 and 2022 — the most in the nation — with three being linked to white supremacist groups, the report found.

The report on California comes after the Anti-Defamation League released another report, in collaboration with Tel Aviv University’s Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry, that shows antisemitic incidents are at a new high worldwide, with the upward trend intensifying in the U.S.

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In California, it found at least 518 antisemitic acts were committed in 2022, second only to New York with 580 incidents. That figure is a 41% increase from 2021, it said.

"There’s a common thread that connects every part of California, north and south, east and west, and that’s hate in all its forms," Oren Segal, vice president of the Anti-Defamation League Center of Extremism, said at a news conference Tuesday. "Addressing the proliferation of extremism, antisemitism and hate is not only a profound challenge, it is one of the challenges of our time."

The civil rights organization’s report, called "Hate in the Golden State", also found an increase in local white supremacist groups working together to spread propaganda and strengthen their presence across California. It shows how established groups such as the Proud Boys continue to target local LGBTQ+ events, especially drag queen story hours.

Supremacist or antisemitic groups such as the Goyim Defense League, Active Clubs and the White Lives Matter network are among the driving forces behind efforts in California to spread white supremacy ideology and organize anti-LGBTQ+ protests, the report said. Last year, the Anti-Defamation League recorded 296 instances of white supremacist propaganda being distributed in California, a jump of 91% from 155 instances in 2021.

It also details violence or harassment committed by supporters of QAnon, a baseless conspiracy theory that believed former President Donald Trump was waging a secret campaign against enemies in the "deep state" as well as a child sex trafficking ring run by satanic pedophiles and cannibals. It found supporters of the group were responsible for at least three violent attacks in 2021 and 2022, including the attack of Paul Pelosi, the husband of then-U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in San Francisco last year.

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Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener, a gay Jewish lawmaker from San Francisco, called the report's findings "absolutely horrifying." Wiener said he has been the target of hate speech and death threats.

"We don’t need to see statistics to know that there has been an explosion of hate and extremism," Wiener said at the news conference. "We need, as a matter of public safety and public health in California, to be very clear that we are going to have a zero-tolerance policy for this kind of extremist bigoted behavior."

The Anti-Defamation League says it has recorded at least 400 incidents where local lawmakers across the country were harassed or threatened between 2020 and 2022, with 64 instances in California.

California lawmakers and officials are attempting to address the trend. Last week, the Civil Rights Department unveiled a statewide non-emergency hate crime hotline. The hotline, serving as an alternative to law enforcement, helps connect people who experience or witness hate crimes with various resources, including legal and mental health assistance.

Democratic Assemblymember Cory Jackson of Riverside, who authored a bill that would create a hate crime intervention unit within the California Department of Public Health, said the extremism movement is gaining traction.

"This movement is well organized, is well funded, and they have a game plan, and they are executing that game plan," he said. "This is our opportunity to making sure that we don’t take this lightly."

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