A white supremacist who stabbed a 66-year-old black man to death with a sword in New York has been charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime.
James Harris Jackson, who killed Timothy Caughman on Monday, was charged on Thursday after he told police that he had hated black men for at least 10 years.
“His intent was to kill as many black men here in New York as he could,” prosecutor Joan Illuzzi said as the 28-year-old was arraigned. “The defendant was motivated purely by hatred.”
Caughman was bent over a rubbish bin around the corner from his home, gathering bottles, when Jackson plunged a two-foot sword into his chest and back and walked off, prosecutors said.
A bleeding Caughman staggered into a police station and later died at a hospital.
Jackson dumped the weapon into a rubbish bin. He turned himself in on Thursday after police released surveillance video picturing him.
Anti-racism protests are expected to take place on Friday in New York, with marches from Union Square to Midtown where Caughman was killed.
Organisers said a moment’s silence will be held for Caughman and other victims of hate crimes.
According to Caughman’s Twitter page, he was an autograph collector and a music and movie lover who tweeted about John Lennon and Chuck Berry.
‘Act of terrorism’
Illuzzi said Jackson, who was in the army for three years until 2012, hated in particular black men who dated white women.
William Aubry, NYPD assistant police chief, said Jackson travelled around 200 miles from his home in Baltimore to carry out the murder, picking New York because he hoped to “make a statement” in the media capital of the world.
“His intentions were to come here to harm [black men],” Aubry said.
Illuzzi said the charges could be upgraded because the killing was an act “most likely of terrorism”.
Jackson’s lawyer suggested that his client might be suffering from mental illness.
The killing comes amid rising reports of hate crimes in the US against minorities.
Al Jazeera’s Kristen Saloomey, reporting from New York, said hate crimes in the city have risen at least 50 percent over the past year.
The organisers of Friday’s protest for Caughman said the election of US President Donald Trump, who has previously targeted Muslims and Mexicans in his rhetoric, played a part.
“NYC has seen a rise in hate crimes since President 45 was elected. Many communities have been attacked in the era of Trump from Muslims, transfolks, black people and the Jewish community. We say no. We must stand up for our city,” they said.
On February 22, a white gunman killed an Indian man, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, at a bar in Kansas after shouting “get out my country”.
Two weeks later in Seattle, a man shot Deep Rai, a Sikh man, after telling him to “go back to your own country”.
Several mosques and Jewish centres have also come under attack.
Jackson’s arrest on Thursday came on the same day that an attack in London, killing at least five including the attacker, gained huge international media attention. UK police named the suspect of that attack as Khalid Masood as reports said he was a Muslim convert.
Some say the reaction to the two attacks reveals a double standard.
“This is a man [Jackson] that is fuelled by hate, fuelled by ideology, and who targeted a New Yorker for simply the colour of his skin,” Albert Fox, a legal director at US Muslim civil rights group CAIR, told Al Jazeera.
“If this assailant [Jackson] were named Jabir or Jamil instead of James, I have no doubt that this would be considered an act of terrorism [as opposed to murder].”
However Joseph Giacalone, a former New York police officer turned security expert, said that political “terrorism” differed from hate crimes.
“Many individuals in our society wish to do others harm and we can’t figure out when is the next time that they’re going to strike,” he told Al Jazeera.
“But when you’re dealing with political terrorism … you can usually figure out where they’re [attackers] going – embassies, banks, anything that has the government’s name on it.”