President-elect Donald Trump’s pick of firebrand Stephan Bannon as chief strategist to his White House administration was celebrated by leading figures in the US white supremacist movement.
Bannon, the former editor of the pro-Trump Breitbart News and leading force of the far-right, has been accused of bigotry, anti-Semitism and racism.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), white nationalist leader Richard Spencer praised the appointment as “the best possible position for Steve Bannon in the Trump White House.”
The hate speech watchdog said the national director of the neo-Nazi group Aryan Renaissance Society, Ken Reed, also welcomed the announcement. Reed on Sunday posted a news story on Facebook about the Bannon appointment on Facebook, saying: “Can you say WINNING boys and girls???”
Users on the neo-Nazi message board Stormfont also welcomed the appointment. One post read: “Stephen Bannon: racist, anti-homo, anti-immigrant, anti-jewish, anti-establishment. Declared war on (((Paul Ryan))) Sounds perfect. Muhahahaha. The man who will have Trump’s ear more than anyone else. Being anti-jewish is not illegal. Nothing you dirty stinking jews can do to keep him out.”
Trump, during a bitter two-year campaign that tugged at America’s democratic fabric, pledged to deport illegal immigrants and ban Muslims, and called Mexicans rapists and drug runners, claims which have created fears of xenophobia — and potentially of mass deportations — now that he has been elected to office.
Since Trump’s upset win there has been a reported uptick in reports of racist and xenophobic incidents.
In the first three days following the election, the SPLC tracked more than 200 incidents of election-related harassment and intimidation.
Most of these episodes were racially motivated, targeting African Americans, Muslims, members of the LGBTQ community, immigrants and women. The SPLC said it collected its data from from media reports, social media and direct submission.
The majority of reported incidents targeted African Americans and close to 50 incidents were anti-immigrant related. Harassment episodes targeting Muslims were the third most common and there were more than ten reported cases involving swastika graffiti.
The data shows that most incidents occurred in schools, grades K-12, and there were close to 40 incidents reported in university campuses across the country.
The testimonies published by the SPLC included descriptions of vandalism, verbal abuse, physical violence, threatening language and reports of a myriad of racial slurs.
One man reported to the SPLC that a young Latino man “was walking into work as a truck slowed down and two white men threw a bag of garbage onto him and yelled, ‘you are going back to where you came from’ and drove off.”
Another testimony states, “My 12 year old daughter is African American. A boy approached her and said, ‘now that Trump is president, I’m going to shoot you and all the blacks I can find.'”
A woman reported that she “was standing at a red light waiting to cross the street. A black truck with three white men pulled up to the red light. One of them yelled, ‘Fuck your black life!’ The other two began to laugh. One began to chant ‘Trump!’ as they drove away.”
While an outpouring of race related incidents have surfaced on social and conventional media, suicide prevention lines have also noticed a surge of fear sweeping across the country.
The average number of calls to The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention hotline for LGBT youths, almost doubled the day after the election and, according to the Washington Post, some 2,000 people contacted the Crisis Text Hotline with cries for help that included the words “election” and “scared” within 24 hours.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline received a record 660 phone calls, in one hour, 2 1/2 times the volume it ordinarily receives, early Wednesday morning as election results poured in, according to the Washington Post.
House Speaker Paul Ryan condemned the violence on Sunday and told CNN that the acts are “terrible” and “awful.” He asserted that the perpetrators are “not Republicans” and said “we don’t want them in our party.”
Ryan added that “People should really just put their minds at ease. We are pluralistic, we are inclusive. That’s the kind of country we want, that’s the country we are and that’s the kind of country we are still going to have” and said he’s “confident Donald Trump feels the same way.”
When asked about the election related violence in an interview on the CBS TV show “60 Minutes on Sunday,” President-elect Trump said that the events “saddened” him, spoke directly to the camera and said “stop it.”