Four Black people in Chicago on Thursday were charged with hate crimes after they broadcast a video of themselves live on Facebook viciously attacking a mentally ill young white man as they yelled, “F*** white people!” and “F*** Donald Trump!” Many white nationalists have blamed the Black Lives Matter movement for being behind the attack.
All four perpetrators were charged with aggravated unlawful restraint, felony aggravated kidnapping and aggravated battery while committing a hate crime.
The disturbing incident drew many responses, including from President Barack Obama, who called the incident “despicable.” Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), called the video “shocking” and said he “would not rule out race” as a motivating factor behind the crime, adding, “I’m glad the authorities have moved so quickly.”
And while the Chicago police confirmed they have not made any connection between the crime and a specific group, known members of the white nationalist alt-right movement immediately connected the video to Black Lives Matter, with #BLMKidnapping trending on social media, simply because the kidnappers were Black.
Richard Spencer, president of the National Policy Institute, a white supremacist group, questioned why BLM activist and former candidate for Baltimore mayor DeRay Mckesson was not “on the terrorism watch list” and compared the torture video to white supremacist Dylann Roof’s murder of nine Black churchgoers in South Carolina in June 2015.
Mike Cernovich, a known conservative media personality, said BLM must disavow “every crime or else they support it.”
Black Lives Matter Chicago posted a statement on its Facebook page calling it “absolutely perplexing and twisted that people are associating this atrocity with this organization and movement.”
Mckesson took to Twitter to disassociate BLM from the crime.
Another tweet that appeared to be from Mckesson’s account went widespread, in which McKesson said he didn’t “see anything wrong with the Chicago Facebook video.” The tweet could not be found on his account, and he said it was “not real” and “obviously photoshopped.”
Many people used the hashtag #BLMKidnapping to draw attention to the fact that while the crime was disturbing, to connect it to BLM simply because the perpetrators were Black is wrong.
“Hate doesn’t have a color”
Dimitri Roberts, a former Chicago police officer, told CNN that he believes what happened is a hate crime but not one that can be connected to BLM.
“This is hate. And hate doesn’t have a color. So for folks to talk about this is somehow connected to Black Lives Matter is absolutely the wrong way to look at this,” he said.
“Let’s address why this happened. This happened because there was some ignorance, and there are some folks that want to sensationalize their message and become Facebook stars, all right? So let’s not start promoting hashtags or be on one side of this issue when we have a real opportunity to unify behind this.”
According to Obama, the use of cellphones and the internet has simply highlighted “a lot of problems that have been there a long time.”
Cohen from the SPLC said that it is difficult to track specific trends in hate crimes, but he has seen what he believes is an increase in hate overall since the election.
“The FBI only tracks reported crimes that have been investigated, so it’s hard to say with any broad certainty whether hate crimes against whites have gone up or down,” he said. “But I would say the level of hate in our country — and certainly after the election— has gone up over the last decade. We’re becoming more polarized and social media allows us to amplify it.”
Hate incidents occurred in record numbers in the week after the election, with the SPLC calculating roughly seven times the weekly average according to the FBI’s 2015 hate crimes report. According to a December report tracking the first month following the election, the spike went down after the first few days.
“While the total number has surpassed the 1,000 mark, reports have slowed down significantly compared to the days immediately following the election,” the SPLC stated.