Why are white supremacists targeting New York?

A protest against white supremacy held in New York City's Times Square.
A protest against white supremacy held in New York City's Times Square.
Dev Chatterjee/Shutterstock
A protest against white supremacy held in New York City's Times Square.

Why are white supremacists targeting New York?

Diversity and media coverage make a prime target for attention-seeking racists.
August 14, 2019

New York is becoming the hot spot for committing hate crimes.

Hate crimes in New York have seen a significant spike within the past two years, according to a new report from The City, as numerous white supremacists have journeyed to New York City with the intention of spreading their rhetoric and causing bodily harm. 

Protesters from white supremacist organizations such as Patriot Front and Identity Evropa have trekked to New York to espouse white nationalist ideas, most of which center around “white replacement theory” rhetoric – the fear immigration will lead to whites being replaced by people of color – and calling for the ousting of all “illigal aliens.” Leaflets have been found throughout the city that echo these groups’ anti-immigrant views. 

In 2017, James Jackson traveled from Baltimore to New York City with the intention of killing numerous black men in an effort to thwart white women from entering into interracial relationships. He ended up fatally stabbing a black man. He told the Daily News that he only shared his views on race with "like-minded people" online.

But why did Jackson come all the way to New York City? It appears the main appeal for Jackson was the likelihood of gaining greater media coverage, according to the Daily News, considering it’s a major media capital.

In late July, Garrett Kelsey, a neo-Nazi from Iowa, sent threatening and derogatory anti-Semetic messages via voicemail and email to a New York City-based Jewish organization because he wanted them to take down a YouTube video they shared. 

It’s worth noting that hate crimes in the city have shot up 67% – and over half of them have been of an anti-Semetic nature, according to the New York Police Department’s data, released in May. And just this week, the NYPD began investigating the attack of three Hasidic Jews in Williamsburg as a potential hate crime

New York is known for its large Jewish population and overall diversity – Queens alone is known for being the most diverse county in the country – making it an ideal target for white supremacists. “It’s just a matter of objectively reading who we are as a city,” Alex Rosemberg, the Anti-Defamation League’s community affairs director, told The City. “There’s always a fear that someone is going to choose (New York) because of the diversity of the city and the symbolism of the city.”

But it’s not just out-of-towners fueling hateful rhetoric. On Saturday, the Sergeants Benevolent Association President Ed Mullins sent his fellow union members a 15-minute video rife with racist commentary, like: “A presidential administration succeeded in forever vilifying its nation’s police while simultaneously granting blacks crime as their new entitlement.” Mullins apologized shortly after sending the video and told the New York Post that he had not listened to the racist narration prior to sharing it – even though his email instructed recipients to “pay close attention to every word. You will hear what goes through the mind of real policemen every single day on the job.”

One lawmaker is looking to stamp out racism before it begins – at least in New York. A new bill sponsored by state Sen. Todd Kaminsky aims to educate children in both public and private schools from sixth to twelfth grade about different symbols of hate, in the hopes of preventing further hate crimes from happening.

“This is not rocket science, we just need to make a connection between historical events and the racism,” Kaminsky told the Post regarding the bill. “(Children) need to know it’s not a game, it’s not a joke or meant to show some type of defiance. Those symbols are meant to intimidate.”

Amanda Luz Henning Santiago
Amanda Luz Henning Santiago
is City & State's web reporter and social media editor.
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