Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Thursday called on “all public officials, of all parties . . . to denounce and repudiate” hate crimes and acts of bias and discrimination, hours after KKK fliers were found on cars in Patchogue and a swastika was discovered on a B train in Manhattan.
Suffolk County police Hate Crimes detectives determined nothing in the fliers left on cars in a parking lot along Main Street was criminal. The incident comes not long after the anniversary of the slaying of Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucero, 37, who was stabbed to death in November 2008.
In a statement released Thursday, Cuomo said: “Hate crimes have spiked across the country and this state has not been spared. Last night, fliers glorifying the KKK were found distributed on cars in Patchogue. This morning, a swastika was discovered on the B train in Manhattan. These are just the latest incidents. My administration has launched a number of investigations into hate crimes targeting minorities and immigrants.
“I call on all public officials, of all parties, and indeed, all people everywhere, to denounce and repudiate these expressions, and to pledge to punish to the full extent of the law anyone engaged in such acts. To remain silent is to engage in a dangerous new permissiveness that threatens our American way.”
“It is not a time to turn our back on any of them,” State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said, referring to immigrants, after he met with public officials and advocacy groups at his Mineola office on Thursday afternoon.
Lucero was fatally attacked near the Patchogue train station by a group of seven teens looking to assault Hispanic males. One of the attackers, Jeffrey Conroy, is serving a 25-year prison sentence for first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime. The other six teens were given sentences ranging from 5 to 8 years.
The fliers found in the parking lot Thursday about 2 a.m. made no mention of Lucero but claimed to have been distributed by a group calling itself the Royal White Knights of the KKK — and featured the drawing of a person in KKK garb.
In a statement released Thursday, police said: “There is nothing criminal about the content of the fliers.”
Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini later said police were investigating but it was not the first time this had happened in Suffolk.
In his statement, Cuomo said: “Let me be very clear: These acts of hate and intolerance go against everything New York stands for. We have welcomed generations of immigrants with open arms. This state will continue that proud legacy — we will not turn our backs and we will not let this heated rhetoric divide us.”
Schneiderman, speaking to reporters after the Mineola roundtable discussion with Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas and various advocacy groups, stressed that hate crimes won’t be tolerated. He said he was committed to giving law enforcement the tools to vigorously investigate and prosecute such crimes. About 18 percent of Long Island’s population of 2.8 million people is foreign-born and about 100,000 people in Nassau and Suffolk counties may be in the country illegally, he said.
“It’s time for us to step up and protect all New Yorkers and recognize that they all make a contribution and speak loudly against those who would divide us. . . . We are committed to doing whatever we can do to ensure that New York remains a place where all are safe and all are welcome,” Schneiderman said.
Asked whether President-elect Donald Trump should speak out against the recent national surge in hate crime, Schneiderman said: “He said that before. I think he needs to say it again. I think it’s important for everyone to reject this. This is anti-American. This is un-American. . . . I’m not putting it all on Mr. Trump, it’s up to all of us to step up . . . and say that this is unacceptable.”
Walter Barrientos, Long Island coordinator for the immigrant advocacy group Make the Road New York, said: “At this moment, many people need to hear that our public officials and institutions will protect them.”
Immigrants across the Island are “petrified” about their basic safety and how access to public education will be impacted by a Trump presidency, he said after the roundtable.
Although Nassau has not seen an uptick in hate crimes since the Nov. 8 election, Singas said the district attorney’s office of Immigrant Affairs has foreign-language speakers available to people who want to report these incidents.
“My message is that my office will be responsive, will protect every Nassau County resident regardless of race, regardless of national origin, regardless of gender and that all hate crimes will be prosecuted vigorously,” Singas said.
Earlier Thursday in Manhattan, Schneiderman said he had issued a bulletin to local law enforcement agencies to watch for and pursue hate crimes, citing a reported rise in incidents nationwide.
The bulletin provides guidance in identifying, investigating and prosecuting hate crimes against immigrants, religious minorities, ethnic and racial minorities, the LGBT community, and “other vulnerable communities,” Schneiderman said.
Cuomo earlier this week started a toll-free hotline to report bias and discrimination incidents, providing a vehicle for New Yorkers to file a complaint with the Division of Human Rights.
Residents who have been victimized are urged to call 888-392-3644 weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
With Michael Gormley and Mark Morales