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As reported racial attacks and harrassment increase, Michigan universities work to respond

Graph showing racial attacks and harassment since Election Day.
Souther Poverty Law Center
People in Michigan have been the targets of harrassment and racial attacks since Election Day.

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights continues to receive increased reports of harassment and bullying directed at students of color and religious minorities following Tuesday's election.

Agustin Arbulu is the director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. He says many of the attacks are related to things President-elect Donald Trump said throughout his campaign.

“I think this election had a very negative climate for people on both sides, so it’s not surprising that there are people struggling with the result,” he says.

Ann Arbor police reported that last Friday evening a woman was forced to remove her hijab after a man threatened to set her on fire with a lighter near the University of Michigan campus. Police say the woman took it off and able to leave the area.

A Traverse City police officer has been suspended after he flew a large confederate flag from his pickup truck while driving past an anti-Trump protest. Witnesses told police that officer Michael Peters was drinking a beer when he parked at the protest while off duty.

Some universities in Michigan are taking action to try and calm things down and promote tolerance.

Eastern Michigan University has invited faculty, staff and students to attend a day long program on racism, diversity and inclusion on Monday. Many professors are excusing students from class to attend the "teach-in" which runs from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and includes speakers and breakout sessions.

Black students at EMU have held protests after several incidents of racist graffiti targeting African Americans were left on buildings.

The school says Monday's program will allow the community to come together to consider what can be done to ensure Eastern Michigan "is a genuinely inclusive and democratic institution in which all individuals and groups are secure, respected, and valued."

At the University of Michigan, an email sent from President Mark Schlissel, his administrators and student leaders, spoke out against these recent behaviors and expressed hope moving forward.

"We saw a threatening message painted on the rock near our campus; a student walking near campus was threatened with being lighted on fire because she wore a hajib; another student left his apartment to go to class and found a swastika with a message telling him to go home.  Some students have also been shouted at and accused of being racist because of their political views," the email said. "Emotions are high all across the political spectrum. We hope all members of our community can agree that we must not stand silent while facing expressions of bigotry, discrimination or hate that have become part of our national political discourse. Only by speaking out against personal attacks, hate and threats can we move on to have the discussions that will be necessary for our campus and our nation to reach its full potential."

Vincent Duffy has been news director at Michigan Public since May 2007.
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