Violent hate crimes put residents on edge

In Winthrop last month, a man described by District Attorney Rachael Rollins as a white supremacist with “hate in his heart” gunned down a retired state trooper and a retired Air Force veteran, both of whom were Black.

Earlier this month in Brighton, a rabbi was stabbed multiple times outside a Jewish day school in another apparent hate crime.

The two violent incidents raised community awareness of hate crimes and put state residents on edge. “The unpredictability of it, with both [suspects] not on anyone’s radar, it creates a sense of vulnerability amongst people in the community,” said Robert Trestan, executive director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Boston office.

The crimes also raise the question of whether Massachusetts is seeing another spike in hate incidents. While anecdotally, the answer is yes, there is no way to know for sure, since there is little current public data.

Attorney General Maura Healey has a complaint hotline to report bias-motivated threats, harassment, and violence. But those calls include out-of-state callers and incidents unrelated to hate crimes, and do not provide an accurate representation of actual incidents. While Healey’s office prosecutes civil rights violations – like race-based housing discrimination – hate crimes are generally left to district attorneys and the US Attorney’s office.

The US Attorney’s office referred questions on the prevalence of hate incidents to the FBI’s Boston office. An FBI spokesperson said its most recent public data is from 2019, when the FBI identified 375 hate crimes in Massachusetts, mainly intimidation and vandalism. Similarly, the state Executive Office of Public Safety and Security releases data in December from the prior year, so it last published numbers for 2019, when the state identified 376 hate crimes.

The ADL has the most updated tracking map of hate incidents. The ADL tracks white supremacist events, white supremacist propaganda distribution, and a broad range of anti-Semitic incidents, in addition to hate crimes like actual attacks.

The organization’s map identified 63 incidents in the first six months of 2021, including the Winthrop murder, 11 anti-Semitic incidents, four white supremacist events (like rallies), and 48 incidents of white supremacist propaganda. (The Brighton stabbing occurred in July so is not yet listed.)

That appears to be a decrease from 2020, when there were an astonishing 355 hate incidents (of which 276 were white supremacist propaganda and 73 were anti-Semitic incidents). The 2020 numbers represented a record level of hate, up from 258 incidents in 2019 and less than 200 each of the prior three years. But, according to the ADL, the 2021 numbers are still preliminary and will likely increase as more incidents are identified.

Trestan said he has seen a big spike in the last eight or nine weeks in anti-Semitic incidents being reported to the ADL. He is worried about the violence in Winthrop, Brighton, and the epidemic of harassment against Asian-Americans over the last year. “There’s a lot on social media, and there are clearly people who are not just talking about hatred of various groups but they’re actually taking action,” Trestan said.

The last time there was a sustained focus on hate crimes in Massachusetts was in 2017, after former President Donald Trump took office and there was a surge in bias-related incidents nationally. Gov. Charlie Baker at the time reestablished a task force on hate crimes to advise his office on preventing and responding to hate crimes.

Trestan said he sees the current spike as a continuation of that. “We haven’t seen a marked decrease over the last few years,” Trestan said. “In some ways, we reached a new plateau.”

SHIRA SCHOENBERG

 

FROM COMMONWEALTH

Baker spending plan: Tapping most of the $200 million in federal aid the Legislature has allotted him, Gov.  Charlie Baker announces a plan with a heavy focus on health care and workforce training.

— In a dig at the Legislature, which is going to take months to come up with a spending plan for the remaining $5 billion in federal funds, the governor said he wanted to act quickly because low-income families and communities of color “can’t wait for assistance.” The spending plan provides $55 million for temporary rate hikes for human service workers, $50 million for hospitals, $31 million for psychiatric facilities, and $50 million for workforce training. Read more.

Redistricting headaches: At a State House hearing, lawmakers say it’s possible some precincts could be split between legislative districts as new electoral maps are drawn. Backers of US Rep. Jake Auchincloss urge that his congressional district, which stretches from Newton to Fall River, be left alone. Read more.

OPINION

Conventions key: James Rooney, the president and CEO of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, says rebuilding the city’s convention and conference business could be crucial in kickstarting the economy.

— Rooney also urges a rethink of the decision to shut down the Hynes Convention Center in Boston’s Back Bay. He says many cities are pursuing a two-pronged strategy — a convention center to grab large events and a second facility for meetings, what he calls congresses. But he also says it may make sense to tear it down and create something like Bryant Park in New York City. Bottom line, he says the decision to shut it down was made in haste and needs to be thought through more carefully. Read more.

FROM AROUND THE WEB

 

BEACON HILL

The Massachusetts House is preparing to debate Rep. Dan Cahill’s bill to legalize sports betting on Thursday. If passed, Massachusetts would join at least 30 states—three in New England—to allow gamblers to bet on sports. (Patriot Ledger)

A bronze plaque is installed at the State House to honor the US Cadet Nurse Corps, a cadre of women who served in military hospitals during World War II. (Salem News)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

An internal investigation finds an officer failed to quickly dispatch an ambulance to help a person who later died because he was distracted by other duties. (Berkshire Eagle)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Shellfish harvesting is temporarily banned along the coast of over two dozen Massachusetts towns due to the presence of paralytic shellfish poison, or “red tide.” The ban will remain in effect until further notice. (WBUR)

Faculty, staff, and students returning to Boston University this fall will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19. President Robert Brown said he hoped a mandate would be unnecessary, but found that too few employees, just under two thirds, were electing to get a shot. (WBUR)

Provincetown is masking back up after a wave of  new coronavirus cases. Over 100 people, mostly men, tested positive following the July 4 weekend, prompting officials to encourage mask wearing indoors regardless of vaccination status. (WBUR) In Yarmouth, meanwhile, there is an outbreak at a nursing home. (Cape Cod Times) Nationally, mask mandates are beginning to return with the uptick in Delta infections. (Washington Post)

The New York Times takes an in-depth look at how Biogen’s controversial Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm was approved. 

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Facing pressure from left-wing activists, Ben & Jerry’s announces that it will stop selling ice cream in the West Bank and East Jerusalem due to political opposition to the Israeli settlements. (Associated Press)

ELECTIONS

The Boston Globe profiles Boston mayoral candidate Annissa Essaibi George as a candidate who has charted a more moderate path, particularly on policing. 

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

An increase in Airbnb rentals may be linked to violent crimes, according to a study by researchers from Northeastern University. (Boston Herald)

EDUCATION

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all children over age 2 wear masks at school this fall regardless of vaccination status. (NBC)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Heavy rains cause sewage overflows into the Merrimack River. (Eagle-Tribune)

New Hampshire residents are unhappy about plans for a new landfill, which would become a dumping ground for trash from Massachusetts. (Boston Globe)

ARTS/CULTURE

Live theater and musical performances are finally returning, with the lifting of COVID restrictions. (Telegram & Gazette)

The pandemic has spurred a workers’ rights movement at museums, as museum employees seek better pay and more job security. (Boston Globe)

TRANSPORTATION

The Vermonter, Amtrak trains that run between Washington, D.C., and Vermont, are back in service after being discontinued during COVID. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

The Brockton Police Department is launching two community driven programs to educate youth about policing and encourage them to pursue careers in law enforcement. $150,000 of the city budget was allocated to the initiative plus $65,000 from a Community Development Block Grant. (Enterprise

Mattapoisett Police Chief Mary R. Lyons pleaded not guilty to a charge of drunken driving after being arrested and charged with the crime Saturday. She has been placed on administrative leave and Capt. Hason King is overseeing the department in her absence. (South Coast Today)

MEDIA

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof is considering a run for governor of Oregon. (Washington Post)