- Hate incidents in 37 US cities increased in 2021 and appear to be on the rise.
- Politicians, election workers, and even librarians report increasing harassment, threats and assaults.
- The midterm elections and the 2024 presidential race could worsen the situation.
For Richard Ringer, a Democrat running for a seat in the Pennsylvania Statehouse, the rising tide of hate in America arrived at his doorstep.
Early Monday morning, Ringer said, he heard someone enter his garage. He said he sneaked up on a man he did not know, and attacked him. During the altercation, the suspect punched Ringer in the head about 10 times, knocking him out, Ringer said. After he recovered, Ringer called the police, according to news reports.
It was the third time in two weeks that Ringer had to call the police, he said. One time it was after someone broke his garage door; one time was after someone threw a brick through his front window, Ringer said. These events, which Ringer says he believes are related to his political work, have left him uncertain about the state of America.
“I’m afraid of this country,” Ringer told Insider. “I’m worried as hell.”
The problems that Ringer described, while alarming, are not at all surprising. From abortion clinics to polling stations to libraries, threats of violence seem to be on the rise. And it’s likely to get worse as the US heads into what will be a divisive race for the White House in 2024.
Animus among Americans seems to be everywhere: A man attacked Nancy Pelosi’s husband, and the suspect is accused of trying to kidnap the leader of the Democratic House. Yes, formerly known as Kanye West, posted a series of antisemitic tweets in October and wore a “White Lives Matter” T-shirt. The Brooklyn Nets have suspended point guard Kyrie Irving for at least five games because of his “failure to resist antisemitism”. An analysis from the Network Contagion Research Institute showed the use of the N word in Twitter spiking one day after Elon Musk took the stage when some users seemed to respond to his level of freedom of speech.
Hate-motivated incidents in 37 major U.S. cities increased by nearly 39% in 2021 and appear to continue to climb for 2022, according to an analysis of state police data compiled by the Institute of the Study of Hate and Retaliation at California State University, San Bernardino.
“It’s bad now. BAD,” George Rattay, chairman of the Democratic Party in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, told Insider. “People are reluctant to work at the polls today. And I understand. People are taking their anger out on these workers, many of whom are elderly.”
Rattay, who has been in politics for more than four decades, said supporters, volunteers and candidates have faced threats and involvement in conflicts.
He said: “When I first entered politics, I could reach everywhere with issues and be polite.” “Not today.”
Election workers and even librarians have faced violence
The danger is not limited to politicians. In August, federal prosecutors charged five people with making death threats against election workers. In October, an Iowa man was arrested in connection with threats to kill election officials in Arizona’s Maricopa County.
“The statement from these leaders, especially the Republicans, is dangerous,” Ringer said, adding that President Donald Trump’s statement was to blame. “I’m worried about poll workers.”
The Republican National Committee did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
The National Counterterrorism Agency, the FBI, and other agencies issued a statement last month warning security agencies about the possibility of attacks on political candidates, election officials and election workers, according to the documents. found by NPR. The FBI has warned of “widespread threats” to synagogues in New Jersey.
Abortion clinic workers are also concerned about increased threats, which can include violence, harassment, and even arson, in the post-Roe v. Wade America, NPR reports.
Less controversial social pillars are also at risk. Libraries, which not long ago would not have been considered targets for political attacks, are facing threats – along with their staff. Outrage from others about some library books draws staff into social culture wars.
Denver libraries were closed for a day after receiving an “unspecified threat” in late September. A similar situation occurred in Fort Worth, Texas, around the same time. In Nashville, Tennessee, several libraries were closed in October for a day after a bomb threat was sent to staff.
“Unfortunately there has been an increase in the number of threats of violence against libraries and the media,” the American Library Association’s executive board told Insider in an email.
The organization issued a statement in June condemning these threats, adding that many “are intent on erasing the stories and identities of queer, transgender, black, indigenous, people of color, the disabled and religious minorities.”
The range of threats to politicians, poll workers, and other public servants such as librarians shows the hate in America has become widespread. And as voting continues in other states ahead of Tuesday’s midterm elections, the divisive rhetoric is likely to grow.
“I’m worried about next week,” Ringer said, speaking in a medium voice. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. I hope nothing happens.”