New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has launched an initiative to combat hate crimes and protect civil rights, saying the divisive US presidential campaign had prompted a wave of disturbing incidents across the state and the country.
In a speech at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City on Sunday, Cuomo said that he would form a hate-crimes unit of the state police, propose legislation increasing protections against discrimination for public school pupils and establish a private-public legal defence fund for impoverished immigrants.
“The ugly political discourse of the election did not end on election day,” Cuomo, a Democrat, told the African-American congregation. “In many ways it has gotten worse, [growing] into a social crisis that now challenges our identity as a state and as a nation and our people.”
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Civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, have expressed concern over reports of a spate of incidents that appear motivated by racism, bigotry and sexism since Republican Donald Trump won the presidential election on November 8.
Those reports include a swastika painted on a baseball dugout in the western New York village of Wellsville with the words “Make America White Again,” a racist version of Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
Several New York officials were scheduled to appear on Sunday at a rally organised by The Beastie Boys at Brooklyn’s Adam Yauch Park, which was named after the late member of the hip-hop group. The musicians called for the event after swastika graffiti was found in the park.
On Friday, the US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said that the justice department was investigating whether any of the incidents constituted hate crimes, that would trigger harsher penalties for the perpetrators.
Cuomo joined other officials in his party who have denounced the attacks since election day.
Mayors in a number of large cities, including New York, Chicago and San Francisco, have insisted in recent weeks that their communities would remain so-called “sanctuary cities,” despite Trump’s campaign pledge to cut off federal funding for such municipalities.
In sanctuary cities, local law enforcement generally do not help federal authorities search for undocumented immigrants.