Philly GOP Taking Heat for Slow, “Tone-Deaf” Response to Hate Crimes

Some Republican organizations nationwide are responding swiftly and firmly to reports of hate crimes. In Philly, not so much.

On the day that Donald Trump was elected president, a vandal spray-painted two swastikas on storefront windows in South Philly. One of the symbols was used in place of the “T” in Trump’s name.

Two days after Trump was elected president, black students in the University of Pennsylvania’s freshman class were added to a racist cyber group chat originating in Oklahoma that called for a “daily lynching.” The group, titled “Mud Men,” included illustrations of lynching, repeated use of the N-word and several Trump references. The university and the city were shaken up.

That same day, a professor at Drexel found her car vandalized, the words “It’s our pussy now, bitch” scratched onto the side. Local schools, too, found swastikas and anti-gay slurs alongside Trump references written on bathroom walls and on notes stuck in backpacks last week. Students at the York County School of Technology were captured on camera yelling “White power!” while holding a Trump sign and walking down the hallway, prompting school visits from representatives from the state Department of Education and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commissions as well as a crisis-response team. At Villanova, police are investigating the alleged attack of a black female student by a crowd of white men, which reportedly took place one day after Trump was elected president. The men allegedly shouted “Trump! Trump! Trump!” as they knocked the woman down.

In short, a pattern of post-election hate crimes has emerged. So, too, has dialogue – Mayor Jim Kenney has twice condemned the recent incidents, mostly peaceful protests have taken place throughout the city as a result of Trump’s win, and civic groups are convening to discuss not only an election that many are still struggling to wrap their heads around, but the uncertainty swirling in its aftermath.

Of course, it’s not just Philly. The Southern Law Poverty Center counted – across the nation – at least 315 incidents of election-related harassment and intimidation between Election Day and yesterday morning.

Both Democrats and Republicans are responding. When the Ku Klux Klan planned a parade to celebrate Trump’s win, the North Carolina Republican Party joined the Democratic Party in condemning both the parade and the organization.

“We are disgusted and condemn this extremist ideology and associated actions in the strongest possible terms,” N.C. GOP chairman Robin Hayes told CNN. “These acts and thought processes are no reflection of the heartbeat of this great country and are counter to the efforts to make America great again. We stand with the Democratic Party in calling these out-of-state troublemakers to go home.”

When the racist and violent messages were sent to black students at Penn last Friday, the Penn College Republicans denounced them. “These messages are absolutely despicable,” the organization’s statement read. “Hate such as this has no place on Penn’s campus or in our nation. Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected, and we hope that Penn administration and Penn police find the perpetrators as soon as possible.”

So when Philadelphia magazine’s Holly Otterbein reached out to the Philly GOP on Friday for a statement on the cyber attacks, the organization’s initial response took a few by surprise. The group called the incident “reprehensible” but asked what the cyber attack “has to do with us.”

Eventually, the organization did post a statement on Monday – not just on the cyber attacks, but also on other crimes happening throughout the city and the resulting fear plaguing many communities.

“In response to the hateful cyber-attack on black Penn students, and those at other universities, and concerns about violence against minority communities, Joe DeFelice, Chairman of the Philadelphia Republican Party, has issued the following statement:

We have heard worries about an uptick in hateful activity after this extremely divisive election. Any violence towards somebody because of who they are or who they are perceived to be is wrong, and we condemn it. We must remain vigilant.

In our city Republican party we have Ward Leaders who are members of the African American, Latino, Asian, Muslim, Jewish and LGBT communities. Our supporters and voters are diverse and come from every ward in the city. Our party is made up of these people – so how could we, on the whole, stand for racism or oppression of any kind? Moreover, let’s remember this: despite the media narrative that Trump’s campaign was entirely racist, he improved his vote counts among Latino, Black and Asian-American voters. Perhaps something is wrong with the media narrative that lumps all dissent from ‘progressive’ values in with the most virulent racists. Maybe it’s the same reason why nobody in the media accurately predicted a Trump win – because they’re more focused on narratives than on reality. If we can learn one thing from this election it’s that people with well-thought-out, unprejudiced political views are tired of being branded as oppressors by progressives with no empathy and a penchant for hyperbole.

People voted for Trump because they have been left out during the Obama years. They admire his willingness to address tough issues that affect our country, such as illegal immigration, which have previously been branded ‘off limits’. They see America’s place in the world shrinking and heard a candidate of the left who promised more of the same. They hear intense derision and condescension from the mainstream media and the progressive elite. They were appalled by the lack of transparency and corruption of the Clintons. Are some people that voted for Donald Trump racist? Undoubtedly. Do some people that voted for Hillary (or Bernie in the primary) spit on the flag and justify violence against police officers as a political tool, as examples? Also, undoubtedly. The media needs to be careful that they’re holding everybody accountable, and not just conservatives, for extremism that exists at the fringe of every political movement.

The Philadelphia Republican Party opposes the one-party rule that has held back our city for decades, and is dedicated to building a more diverse and inclusive party. Contrary to the media narratives we’ve heard, we believe our President-Elect will actually be helpful in that regard.”

Some praised the statement:

Others, however, found it an insufficient response, including Larry West, a 31-year-old black “concerned” Republican, who runs a blog called “Two-Sided Politics.”

“So, let’s sum this up,” West wrote on his blog. “[The Philly GOP] spent Friday wondering why they need to condemn the actions of people who support their President-Elect committing hate crimes, they insulted a reporter and another random person, re-tweeted someone making divisive statements that seemed to undercut their condemnation, and then when they actually did condemn the attacks they then proceed to attack the media and everyone else and even throw in the old, ‘we’re not bad, some of my best friends are’ card into it.

“I have to question the people who think this is an appropriate reaction from a political party to hate crimes, and even more so, I have to question the overall tone-deafness of this statement,” West added. “It seems to ignore all of the reasons that people are worried and concerned and instead attacks them while bolstering their own win.”

West isn’t alone.

Follow @ClaireSasko on Twitter.