After a wave of hate crimes across the state and the country since the election of Donald Trump as president, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo vowed Sunday to create a state police unit specifically dedicated to protecting civil rights. He cited the spray painting of a swastika onto a Brooklyn park over the weekend and the case of a black freshman at the University of Pennsylvania who was sent pictures of lynching and racial slurs, as recent examples of the divisiveness that had gripped the country, Reuters reported Sunday.
“I am ordering the State Police to put together a special unit to address the explosion of hate crimes in our state,” Cuomo wrote on Twitter Sunday.
During the speech to a mainly African-American congregation at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City, Cuomo, a Democrat, announced he would propose legislation increasing protection against hate crimes among students in public schools.
Cuomo penned an open letter to “all students in the State of New York,” Sunday that spoke about the incidents of discrimination that had emerged in universities across the state.
“Let me be clear: This is the State of New York, not a state of fear. We will not tolerate hate or racism,” Cuomo wrote. “We cherish our diversity. We find strength in our differences. Whether you are gay or straight, Muslim or Christian or Jewish or Buddhist, rich or poor, black or white or Latino or Asian, man or woman, cisgender or transgender, we respect all people in the State of New York."
Cuomo said that under his plan he would include the expansion of New York’s Human Rights Law in public schools to protect students who are bullied or discriminated against.
Cuomo also said he would establish an emergency legal defense fund for immigrants who fear prosecution or deportation under a Trump administration, Al Jazeera reported Monday.
"The ugly political discourse of the election did not end on Election Day," said Cuomo during the speech Sunday. "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."
There were more than 700 incidents of physical harassment and intimidation across the country since Trump’s presidential election victory, the Southern Law Center reported Friday. The New York Police Department said there had been 328 hate crimes this year, compared to the 150 the city had at this time last year.
NYPD Commissioner James O’ Neill told a New York radio station he was troubled by the recent uptick in hate crimes.
"We've had an uptick in hate crimes, actually a little bit more than an uptick. We're up 31 percent from last year. We had at this time last year 250, this year we have 328, specifically against the Muslim population in New York City -- we went up from 12 to 25, and anti-Semitic is up, too, by 9 percent from 102 to 111," O'Neill said.
While Trump said he would deport 3 million undocumented immigrants immediately upon taking office, mayors of “sanctuary cities" across the U.S., including New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco, have said they would protest any federal government plans to deport any of its residents. The mayors also maintained they would remain “sanctuary cities,” which do not assist federal authorities when they are searching for undocumented immigrants, despite Trump’s campaign pledge to cut off federal funding to the cities if they did.