Alameda among Bay Area rash of hate crimes

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Tam Duong Jr.

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Alameda’s residential community was rattled by a series of hate crimes as the summer came to a close. Members of the Alameda Board of Education discussed these topics at the school board meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 26.

The first reported hate crime happened at Temple Israel on Bay Farm Island in Alameda. The act took place the night of Aug. 17 when an unidentified man walked up to the synagogue and threw three rocks at the glass door and windows.

Three days later on Aug. 20, anti-Islam fliers were found dropped on the 1400 block of Sherman St. in Alameda’s Gold Coast neighborhood. The fliers included an image of a swastika and a woman wearing a hijab with a hate message printed underneath. The Alameda Police Department has labeled this a hate incident rather than a hate crime because the only offense was littering.

Starting the month off, the next hate crime happened on Sept. 5 where a noose was found hanging on the fence of Alameda High’s tennis court. School was in session when Officer Mrak, the school’s resource officer, was informed of the discovery.

The final crime happened the evening of Sept. 27 when it was reported to Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) that swastikas were painted on a slide at Donald D. Lum Elementary school. The hateful graffiti was removed by AUSD staff early the next morning before school started.

Police have been investigating these events but have yet to identify any of the perpetrators. These cases of racial intolerance are a big concern to the community and are worrisome to Alameda residents as to what else can be done.

“At first I didn’t want to believe it,” said Brian Bresnock, a 25-year resident of Alameda. “When I saw the story about the noose on the news, my heart sank. Now hearing about all these events I’m shocked. I think we all need to be more aware of what’s going on around here.” Bresnock attended school on the island from grade school through college.

The City of Alameda Social Services Human Relations Board has sponsored Alamedans Together Against Hate, a community group created to help ensure that Alameda can be a hate-free city. The coined slogan, “No place for hate,” has been used for events and passed around through posters and school promotions.

One of the largest functions was a unity picnic organized by Alameda’s Black Achievers Alliance, a program its creator described as a movement to celebrate the achievements that African-Americans have contributed to the community of Alameda. The unity picnic emphasized the importance of people of all ages coming out to share food and fun while stressing the importance of standing together as a community.

At the school board meeting, Superintendent Sean McPhetridge took the time to address the unease about the issues, specifically school related hate crimes, during his closing report.

“I want to say this is something we’re struggling with,” said McPhetridge. “I hear the public saying we need to do more and then I hear other members of the public saying we need to do less. We’re trying to figure it out, we’re trying to find the meaning of this.”

Alameda’s effort to come together following these instances hasn’t gone unnoticed but it’s not the only city facing these troubles. While residents have been shocked by these events in the small town, worse hate crimes have been popping up all over the United States.

According to the New York Times, the Southern Poverty Law Center counted almost 900 incidents of hate or bias in the ten days after the election, using a combination of news reports and witness testimony.

Alameda’s hate crime history briefly started after the election with one reported incident but according to the City of Alameda’s Important Policies and Hate Crime statistics, the months of Aug. and Sept. 2017 had more hate crimes combined than in the last five years.

Other Bay Area cities such as Oakland, Castro Valley, and Albany have been dealing with their own share of hate crimes in the last month. Officers in these cities have increased patrols around affected areas but no leads or wrongdoers have been identified.

While investigations are still underway, Alameda officials want to make sure the city can remain vigilant and has denounced these hateful crimes. AUSD is planning a public workshop titled “Beyond Everyone Belongs Here” as well as other events which will continue inclusive conversation and stress the message of community safety.