DATA: Pa., NJ see record increases in hate propaganda, attacks

The State of New Jersey is seeing a record-high number of attacks based on race, gender identity or sexual orientation. Pennsylvania is also seeing increases of hate in different ways, according to recent data.

Video Transcript

SHARRIE WILLIAMS: Now the details-- it's a disturbing trend that is on the rise in our area. We're talking about attacks based on race, gender identity, or sexual orientation. The state of New Jersey is seeing a record high number of cases while Pennsylvania is seeing increases of hate in different ways. Action News reporter Tarhonda Thomas looking into this and taking a deep dive and has more now live from Germantown with that full story. Tarhonda?

TARHONDA THOMAS: Well, Sharrie, just last week, we saw a group gather in this neighborhood to protest against attacks on transgender people. And now we're seeing how far-reaching hate propaganda has gotten. There have been more than 5,000 incidents reported in the US in 2020, and Pennsylvania ranks eight. Now looking at this information, the state seems like it's become a prime target for white supremacy groups looking to spread a message of hate.

SHIRA GOODMAN: Flyers that talk about white heritage, you don't belong here-- that is really distressing.

TARHONDA THOMAS: Hate hitting close to home.

SHIRA GOODMAN: A white supremacist group will leave flyers on cars or at a house of worship.

TARHONDA THOMAS: The Anti-Defamation League says the distribution of materials and graffiti from hate groups in Pennsylvania rose from nearly nothing in 2016 to 238 in 2020, the most they've ever seen in the state. Out of the hundreds of incidents over the past year, 129 of them have happened here in Philadelphia, but it extends far beyond the city. Zoom out, and you'll see the ADL has tracked white supremacist propaganda across the state, with a lot of it concentrated in Eastern Pennsylvania.

SHIRA GOODMAN: Almost every state had an incident.

TARHONDA THOMAS: Sadly, it doesn't stop with propaganda. New Jersey has had more racially-biased attacks than ever.

PHIL MURPHY: And we're going to start releasing that data monthly, and that's a big shift.

TARHONDA THOMAS: According to New Jersey State Police, there were 1,441 reports of bias attacks and hate crimes in 2020. That's a 45% jump from 2019. Attacks against Blacks rose 84%, and attacks against Asians rose 74%.

PHIL MURPHY: It's quite troubling. We've done a lot to push back on that.

TARHONDA THOMAS: The groups behind the messages of hate aren't always easy to spot, hiding behind words like heritage or patriot.

SHIRA GOODMAN: Sometimes you have to look close to figure out what this is about.

TARHONDA THOMAS: Once residents do recognize it, experts say the only way to stop it is to speak out against it.

PHIL MURPHY: Folks have to have the courage, I think is the right word, to stand up and be counted.

TARHONDA THOMAS: The Anti-Defamation League encourages anyone who sees hate propaganda to report it. Now they think one of the reasons why this propaganda has continued to increase is because it's actually protected by the First Amendment. The organization is putting pressure on Pennsylvania to update its hate crime laws. We're live in Germantown. Tarhonda Thomas, Channel 6 Action News.

SHARRIE WILLIAMS: All right. Speak up about it, for sure. Tarhonda, thank you.