(New York Jewish Week) — Speaker Adrienne Adams and other New York City Council members called for $5 million in funding for hate crime prevention at a press conference on Friday.
The conference focused on the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s 2022 Digital Hate Report, released Friday, which brings attention to antisemitic, racist and xenophobic messaging online. The report offers details on infiltration of children’s gaming platforms by hate groups, Russian disinformation campaigns and more.
Those calling for the funding also cited the Anti-Defamation League’s new report showing a stark year-to-year increase in reports of hate crimes across New York State and the country.
Adams said at the press conference that the council had previously allocated $1 million for The Hate Crimes Initiative, “which supports community-based groups working to prevent and respond to hate crimes across the city.”
She added that a portion of the $4 million announced in July 2021 for Asian American and Pacific Islanders funds anti-hate crime efforts.
The additional funding would go towards the Mayor’s Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes and community groups.
Adams said that in order to prevent hate from turning into violence, “we have to get to the root of the problem.”
“One way we can do that is by addressing online spaces that foment hate,” said Adams, who represents District 28 in Queens. “The other is by bringing our communities together to confront hate and foster unity, understanding and respect that doesn’t allow for hate to have space to grow at all.”
Rick Eaton, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s director of research and author of the 2022 report, said in a press release that the report “highlights the pervasiveness of extremist content circulating on both mainstream and alternative platforms.”
“Yet the purveyors of hate are allowed a forum to post, incite and recruit with impunity,” Eaton said.
Eaton noted that New York City subway shooter Frank James gained 180,000 views and 4,000 followers from hate speech-filled videos that he posted on YouTube.
“That takes a little bit of time to get to those numbers,” Eaton said. “For some reason, they were never flagged by anyone.
Council member Eric Dinowitz, who chairs the council’s Jewish Caucus, said that “harmful rhetoric” surrounding the state of Israel is contributing to the rising tide of hate in the city.
“We see a disturbing rise of antisemitism masked as a legitimate criticism of Israel,” Dinowitz said. “When Jews are beaten up in the streets because of policies in Israel an ocean way, it stops becoming about legitimate disagreements with Israel, and it is about antisemitism.”
The NYPD has begun an investigation of a possible hate crime after a Jewish man was allegedly beaten at a pro-Palestinian rally on April 20. Last year at least two men were arrested in the assault of Joseph Borgen, a Jewish man, during a pro-Palestinian protest in Times Square.
Council member Linda Lee, vice co-chair of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus, drew attention to the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes across the city, which increased by over 300 percent in 2022.
“I think it’s important for the Asian community to have that voice and stand up in solidarity and unity,” Lee said.
She added that statistics shown in SWC’s new report are “horrifying and worrisome.”
“They can and will lead to someone getting hurt,” Lee said. “Online companies are profiting off this content, whether they admit it or not. We need to take action now.”
Other council members in attendance included Jennifer Gutierrez, Mercedes Narcisse, Nantasha Williams, Lincoln Restler and Ari Kagain.
Speaker Adams and Mayor Eric Adams did not respond to requests for comments in regards to the call for the $5 million in funding on Friday.