Social Distortion

Anti-Defamation League Reports Striking Uptick in "Hate-Related Incidents" in Houston

Swastikas spray-painted on fences and signs in Sienna Plantation. Students saluting Adolf Hitler during Cypress-Ranch High School's senior class picture day. Racist and anti-Semitic  fliers distributed at universities and in neighborhoods across Harris, Fort Bend and Montgomery counties. All of that happened in just one week, leading the Anti-Defamation League's Houston branch to issue a statement Friday about the uptick since the start of the year.

According to ADL's Southwest Regional Director Dayan Gross, the Southwest Region usually sees 30 to 40 hate-related incidents per year. So far, the ADL has counted 25 since the start of the year.

“There has been a disturbing uptick in the number of apparent hate incidents since the Presidential election,” Gross said in a statement. “We are working hard to respond to these incidents, and we hope they are not part of a growing trend."

Gross told the Houston Press via email that the ADL tracks the incidents as they are reported in news media or when they receive tips and investigate the incidents on their own accord. "Generally if hate symbols, signs or language are involved, these incidents are classified as hateful incidents," he said of the ADL's criteria.

While the ADL doesn't speculate about the cause of such a drastic increase, Gross said the perpetrators used Trump signage or identified themselves as Trump supporters.

Last week, the Press talked to the group behind the distribution of white nationalist flyers at Rice University, called American Vanguard, whose Texas leader told us that Trump was helping their cause, no matter how he may try to distance himself from white supremacist groups. The fliers, which the ADL cited in its release, encouraged people to defend the white race, which American Vanguard believes is undergoing a slow and steady genocide (let us clarify for the record: "Genocide" is their word, not ours). The recruitment fliers said things like "We have a right to exist" and "Defending your people is a social duty." Others at Texas universities appeared Trump-inspired: "What Made America Great? Blood and soil. Keep it that way, join the Vanguard."

"Trump is a representation of white America — whether he likes it or whether he knows it or not," said the leader of American Vanguard's Texas chapter, who said it's the Vanguard's policy to always be anonymous for safety purposes. "I think what he's doing is... uh... he's kind of defending it. Not explicitly, but he's doing things that are helpful for it."

In a Sienna Plantation neighborhood in Fort Bend County, multiple homeowners found swastikas spray-painted on their fences and garages. One homeowner found a Trump-Pence campaign sign, with a swastika painted over it, tacked onto his fence as well. As KTRK reported, the Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office is investigating the incident as a hate crime.

That same week, a seemingly large group of students at Cypress-Ranch High School reportedly yelled "Heil Hitler!" and "Heil Trump" during a senior photo, throwing up the Nazi salute. One student emailed photos to KPRC, telling the news station that it appeared that roughly 70 students participated. Cy-Ranch administrators said those students would be disciplined, and addressed the student body and parents in lengthy statements.

"This inappropriate gesture is symbol of a horrible time in the world, in which countless human atrocities occurred," Principal Bob Hull said in a statement, which you can view in full here. "This gesture invokes strong emotion and symbolizes hate that crosses all genders, races and cultural lines. ...I am disheartened that this group are members of our senior class."

Gross said that ADL has offered assistance to law enforcement, educators and victims in the areas where these hate-related incidents occurred, offering educational materials or training wherever needed.

"We continue to do what we always have done, which is to educate against the dangers of hatred and promote diversity and respect. Our staff has stepped up efforts to prevent and to respond acts of hate and will continue to do so as needed."
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Meagan Flynn is a staff writer at the Houston Press who, despite covering criminal justice and other political squabbles in Harris County, drinks only one small cup of coffee per day.
Contact: Meagan Flynn