Indy's Jewish Community Relations Council says hateful & anti-Semitic acts are on the rise

INDIANAPOLIS -- Racist graffiti that has popped up in four different Indiana cities in the days since the election is just part of a larger increase in such acts in the past 18 months, according to the Jewish Community Relations Council.

The non-partisan organization, based in Indianapolis, tracks hate speech and crimes targeted at Jewish and other minority communities.

Lauren Morgan, the group's program director, said there's been a definite "uptick" in reports of anti-Semitic and other hate speech in Indiana.

"It's very chilling," Morgan said. "It's really troubling. We've seen a rise in these types of incidents, and it's very scary for the Jewish community."

Above: Graffiti spray-painted on Bloomington's B-Line Trail last week.

Since Tuesday's election, at least four such incidents have been reported in Indiana. Those incidents have occurred in South Bend, Indianapolis, Bloomington and in the small community of Bean Blossom, where an anti-Semitic symbol and anti-LGBT slur were found spray-painted on St. David's Episcopal Church early Sunday morning.

The graffiti included a swastika and the words "Heil Trump."

MORE | Graffiti, including swastika, found painted on Indiana church | Swastika, 'KKK' graffiti left on Bloomington's B-Line Trail

"We don't want this to be the new normal," Morgan said. "We don't want people to feel empowered to say these things."

In Bean Blossom, St. David's Rev. Kelsey Hutto said that even though the graffiti invoked the name of President-elect Donald Trump, it wasn't Trump who held the can of spray paint.

"This was not Trump that did this," Hutto said. "These were people of our own community that did this. We want to be able to offer them forgiveness and to offer them love in an area where they didn't show it to us."

For his part, Trump told CBS News' Lesley Stahl in an interview that aired Sunday that he was "saddened" to hear about hateful acts perpetrated in his name.

"I say, 'Stop it,'" Trump told Stahl. "If it helps, I will say this, and I will say it right to the cameras: 'Stop it.'"

While churches are often the target of hateful acts, Morgan said the biggest place the JCRC is now getting reports from is schools.

In Columbus, Indiana, the hometown of Vice President-elect Mike Pence, Latino students reported having "Build that wall!" chanted at them by fellow students. The students' father told Indiana Public Media that the chants were meant to intimidate his sons.

"We can never really get to the point where we say, oh, it's just kids, and it doesn't matter," Morgan said. "A kid should not have to go to school and be asked when they're going to be deported. A kid should not go to school and have a swastika drawn on their paper. We should not have to tell kids to grow a thicker skin."

There's no real way to know how prevalent hate crimes – or bias crimes, as Indiana State Police categorize them – are in Indiana because only five agencies in the entire state reported investigating bias crimes to ISP in 2015. It's not clear whether the state's other agencies had no hate crime investigations or whether they simply didn't report. 

In all, approximately 67 bias crime incidents were reported across the state in 2015.

The FBI released its annual hate crimes report on Monday, detailing the more than 5,800 hate crimes reported in the U.S. last year. Crimes based on the victim's race, ethnicity or ancestry accounted for nearly 60 percent of all reports:

The JCRC is encouraging individuals affected by hateful speech or acts to report them to police, as well as to the JCRC. The organization is also planning a renewed push in the 2017 legislation session for Indiana to adopt a statewide hate crime law. Currently, the state is one of just five in the U.S. without hate crime legislation on the books.

"We can always paint over the graffiti, but we can't paint over the lasting feeling of fear that graffiti leaves," Morgan said.

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If you or someone you know has been the victim of a hate crime in Central Indiana, contact RTV6 Senior Crime Writer Jordan Fischer at jordan.fischer@wrtv.com.

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