The Justice Department is investigating a recent wave of alleged hate crimes committed in the days since Donald Trump was elected president, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Friday, calling on the public to continue reporting potential violations of federal law.
Ms. Lynch was commenting on the FBI’s recently published 2015 hate crime statistics in a video statement Friday when she touched on a rash of alleged incidents that have emerged in the week-and-a-half since Mr. Trump was elected the nation’s next president.
“Beyond these 2015 statistics, I know that many Americans are concerned by a spate of recent news reports about alleged hate crimes and harassment. Some of these incidents have happened in schools. Others have targeted houses of worship. And some have singled out individuals for attacks and intimidation,” Ms. Lynch said.
“The FBI is assessing, in conjunction with federal prosecutors, whether particular incidents constitute violations of federal law. We need you to continue to report these incidents to local law enforcement, as well as the Justice Department, so that our career investigators and prosecutors can take action to defend your rights,” she added.
Watchdog groups have said a surge in reported hate crimes has occurred in the aftermath of Mr. Trump being elected president Nov. 8 on the heels of a campaign that called for deporting millions of undocumented immigrants and banning Muslims from entering the country.
One group, the Southern Poverty Law Center, said it was aware of 437 “reports of hateful intimidation and harassment” said to have occurred between Wednesday, November 9, and Monday, November 14, including 136 alleged incidents described as anti-immigrant.
The New York City Police Department, meanwhile, said earlier this week that reports of hate crimes targeting Muslims have more than doubled since the same time last year.
Appearing Sunday on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Mr. Trump said he was aware of “a very small amount” of harassment and other crimes being reported in the days following his election, and called on the perpetrators to discontinue their attacks.
“Don’t do it,” Mr. Trump said. “That’s terrible because I’m going to bring this country together.”
The FBI announced earlier this week that hate-crime incidents increased across the board by nearly 7 percent in 2015, largely thanks to a 67 percent increase in cases in which Muslims were said to have been targeted.
Federal hate crime laws prohibit criminal behavior driven by bias against a person’s race, religion, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or other protected classification.
“These numbers should be deeply sobering for all Americans,” Ms. Lynch said of the uptick Friday. The FBI report “also showed increases in the number of hate crimes committed against Jewish people, African Americans and LGBT individuals. Overall, the number … does not account for the many hate crimes that may go unreported out of shame or fear,” she added.