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“After two friends within an hour, and three within two days faced confrontations that tread the hate-crime line, we are creating this self-reporting form”

by Prince Of Petworth February 6, 2017 at 12:30 pm 32 Comments

self reporting tool
Photo by PoPville flickr user Miki J.

“Dear PoPville,

There have been, just in my small universe, three incidents in the last four days of individuals using “go back home”, “this is my country”, “where are you from” “get out muzzie C^&*” interactions in the last four days. All three of the incidents were in Petworth/Park View. Two of them may be related. We, some of us lawyers, have checked DC ACLU, and SPLC, and there’s not a specific reporting mechanism on issues like this within DC.

Could you please ask people to fill out this form if they have had any incidents. And if there’s someone who specializes in how to turn these encounters into appropriate identification and tracking of bad actors to pass on ways to do so?”

After two friends within an hour, and three within two days faced confrontations that tread the hate-crime line, we are creating this self-reporting form for individuals to report incidents of intimidation, hate crime, and other danger in the face of political beliefs. The hope is we can establish patterns if needed. All responses will be kept confidential, and contact information if disclosed will only be kept by the database administrator.

  • textdoc

    I’m assuming from the word “muzzie” that these were interactions in which Muslims (or people perceived to be Muslims) were accosted — is that correct?
    If so, maybe contact the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)? I see from their contact page (https://www.cair.com/contact-us.html ) that they have a Department to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia.

  • Cleveland Park runner

    You’re creating a list of people who say things you disagree with? That’s horrifying.

    • Anon

      Wow. While it’s clear that you don’t seem to have sufficient rational bandwidth to fully process what’s happening here, I’m still amazed.

    • Sarah

      I agree with you. If you have a problem, go to the police.
      Creating a list of people who say mean things or have opposing views, if the reporter feels threatened should go to police.

    • dcd

      ” a list of people who say things you disagree with”
      Did you read the initial post? I find it very difficult to characterize *anything* listed there as just a disagreement. The efficacy of this idea aside, none of those statements reflect honest disagreements – they range from subtle intimidation to outright hate speech. Come on.

    • ke

      Hurling abuse at someone perceived to be an immigrant is not the same thing as saying something about which someone can reasonably disagree. Like, you may agree that lowering the corporate tax rate is great, and I think it’s terrible. That is a disagreement. “Disagreeing” with someone’s physical presence in your country because of your perception of their religion, and then telling that person they should get out, or any other terrible things that were said, is not a “disagreement.” Talk about false equivalence.

    • lizcolleena

      No, that’s not what they’re doing. Did you read the post or the link? The questionnaire asks for details of the account and asks one question about identifying the perpetrator, but does not ask for a name (which most victims would probably not have). That’s a far cry from “creating a list of people who say things you disagree with.” While I wonder if this mechanism would be redundant from hate crime information and stats collected and reported by police, they are clearly trying to gauge levels of frequency because they’ve noticed an uptick in their own universe, as they put it. Isn’t data generally a good thing as place to start analyzing a problem (or demonstrate that one does not exist, is growing, etc.)?

      • Blithe

        It asks for any identifying characteristics — including such things as race, dress, and tattoos. And the person reporting these things can remain anonymous. Also, and this is critical, I could fill out the form, describing anyone I’d like to report, with no real idea who I’m providing the information to. So, the elderly, white, Jewish, immigrant neighbor who mutters “schwartza” when I walk down the hall — should I report her? And what exactly will happen to her if I do? The potential for abuse here seems high. Especially when there are already systems in place that could be modified to include tracking if that’s a concern.

        • Blithe

          It also asks for photos and videos. Again, the potential for abuse here seems high.

          • lizcolleena

            I see that that’s possible, but you can anonymously report such incidents to the police and SPLC (only first name is required on the form from the link below) as well (and being only one of ten questions leads me to believe that is not their primary goal). I also think that this is a bit of a losing argument – are you against rape victims having anonymity as well? (Typically media will ID the accused only after the person has been formally charged with a crime, but will not publish the victim’s name unless they self-identify in some way.)
            As I said, this may well be redundant, but I think rather than eviscerate what seems to be a good faith attempt to presumably demonstrate an increase in hate crime (which I happen to think probably IS happening), we can constructively encourage them to redirect their energies and expertise to an existing resource that may be in need of support.

          • Blithe

            I agree with your last point. As to your first –I’m not clear why you brought up rape here, but I think that if person A accuses person B of committing a crime, the accusation should be addressed by people already sworn to uphold the public good, and the accusation should not be anonymous. Person B doesn’t have to know who person A is — but in order for the alleged crime to be investigated, the identity of Person A should be known by the entities charged with the responsibility of investigating the allegations. As to the media, I’m not sure what point you’re making here. My point is that I have a problem with making an anonymous accusation to an anonymous entity. If you find that an arguable point, so be it.

          • lizcolleena

            I brought it up because anonymity is a common question / point of discussion in rape cases, moreso than in less sensitive accusations. To my mind there’s an allegory here, and you could probably slot in mob-related crime or something. I agree professionals should handle and hope that is what the OP meant by “appropriate identification,” but considering they don’t ask for names I think it’s a stretch to accuse them of public shaming.

      • Anonymous

        “Isn’t data generally a good thing as place to start analyzing a problem”
        Sometimes. But only if you’re reasonably sure that the data will be good and the people analyzing it know what they’re doing and are acting in good faith. I have no reason to believe this isn’t the case here but I also have no reason to believe it is.

        • Blithe

          + Exactly!

  • GBinCH

    So all I need to do is go on here, name someone I don’t like and say he harassed a muslim? And then will people who use this site harass him in return? Or maybe he can be publicly shamed? Or maybe I just get the wrong person and they get blamed for something they didn’t do. Awesome…
    No way anything like this could be abused.
    This idea is ridiculous. If you are the victim of hate crime, or just harassment in general, then report it to the police. They have the ability to track things and the power to investigate and arrest bad actors. Doing something like this is no better than the idiots who came up with Pizzagate.

    • dunning-kruger

      I’m pretty sure that is not the point. It appears to basically be an incident report. The purpose of which I think is probably to track incidents by location and time, the field asking about perpetrator info seems purposefully vague.
      If you’ve seen me post before you know I loathe public shaming and am not really into the whole safe spaces thing but I don’t see any issue with tracking legal but obnoxious behavior. As long as we continue to give people the right to be jerks (as we should) it seems pretty unfair to attack people for trying to avoid said jerks or track jerkiness over time.
      I feel like someone is probably already doing this with a different methodology and I’m not sure this would be an improvement but I’m not an expert.

      • GBinCH

        The bit I take exception to is “turn these encounters into appropriate identification and tracking of bad actors to pass on ways to do so?” This is a step beyond tracking/reporting incidents, but has an almost vigilante type bent. I was being sarcastic in my comment, but my general point is that tools like this can be misused, whether deliberately or accidentally. When you have a reporting tool that anyone can post to, that’s not monitored or curated by an organization actually sorting out real incidents/true facts from other things, then I see lots of problems.
        I may sound a little dramatic, but we live in a world of fake news, online trolling and other bad stuff. Recently right wing trolls have been using a hash tag to identify undocumented immigrants on twitter so they can harass them, and a few months ago (as reported on here) members of the crucible BDSM club were targeted as being pedophiles. So a good document reporting form, where there is no verification of facts, not mechanisms to identify true incidents, etc., but talk of identifying and tracking individuals… that send shivers up my spine.

        • dunning-kruger

          I skipped that part… thought it was boilerplate “share this link.”
          That’s dumb. Its like a witch hunt for witch hunters.

        • Blithe

          I very much agree with you. Some unnamed, unknown person(s) want me to fill out a form, alleging that other people — whose identifying information and pictures I provide — have done things that could be considered hate crimes. And they — whoever they might be — promise to keep the information confidential. So, they say they’re lawyers, and that we should trust this random, unnamed “database administrator” with whatever — uncorroborated information that is provided to them.
          . I don’t think GBinCH is being dramatic. This could easily be a mechanism for the very hate crimes and vigilantism that the OPs purport to want to prevent. If they are indeed lawyers, I’d think they’d: 1) Be attuned to the type of message this anonymous request puts out. 2) Be able to research the mechanisms now available to address their concerns. And, most of all, 3) Be in a position to utilize their skills to improve the mechanisms that are already in place so that people and mechanisms that presumably already have the public trust (i.e. the police) can address the concerns.

  • Anon X

    This seems like, if it scales up, its something the ACLU would be very concerned with.

  • ke

    Did Cleveland Park and GBin CH even look at the form? It collects fairly basic incident information, not a list of people for public shaming. Trump and his team have emboldened the bigots, and it’s better to provide some kind of consolidated tracking than pretending like these are just unusual unrelated incidents. I did think that SPLC tracked this stuff via Hate Incidents. Maybe you could coordinate with them?

    I’m sorry such terrible things were said to your friends.

    • GBinCH

      The comment I take umbridge is “how to turn these encounters into appropriate identification and tracking of bad actors to pass on ways to do so?”
      Definitely sounds like public shaming to me. Tracking of individuals who engage in hate crimes and harassment are best left to the police, justice department and other law enforcement agencies. I’m certainly not condoning their actions, but I do think the approach espoused here is not a smart move.

      • lizcolleena

        I agree with your sentiment here but I think this hinges on “appropriate” identification. I would think that means turning info over to the police. They didn’t explain what that means to them, and probably should have. Clearly they are not a sophisticated non-profit working to support victims of hate crimes, but my impression is that their hearts are in the right place. We all have to start somewhere, right? Hopefully they will take the resources brought forth from this discussion and use their powers for good and not be discouraged by the umbrage of us anonymous commenters who are critiquing their every word.

    • Blithe

      I looked at the form. It asks for pictures and identifying information of whoever I — or anyone — decides to report to some unnamed “database administrator”. The idea of tracking is great. The idea of anonymous reporting to some anonymous database administrator is not. gonzo has appropriate suggestions — including noting that the police are already trained to handle this type of concern and this type of information. If the unnamed OPs have trouble with how this is being handled, they can — and should — work to improve the system and the process.

      • ke

        The way I read the form itself at first, I did not see it being used as a way to try to identify and track individual actors, just the incidents. But I see what you guys are saying. I agree that the form should not be used for identifying and publicizing alleged bad actors by name. Looking at the SPLC, it appear their form is much broader, and they recommend informing law enforcement first. So, maybe going with already available resources via MPD and SPLC is a better way to go.

        • Anonymous

          “So, maybe going with already available resources via MPD and SPLC is a better way to go.”

  • gonzo

    1. Report harassment or hate crimes to the police.
    2. See #1. They have people trained in this.
    3. from their website: Call the Hate Crimes Hotline at (202) 727-0500, which has been established by the Metropolitan Police Department to assist victims of hate crimes. Callers can report incidents without having to give their names, addresses, or other personal information.

  • jumpingjack

    So awful.
    The SPLC is collecting incidents:
    You said that you already checked with them – were you looking for something different?
    I encourage everyone to take a bystander intervention training – it’s very helpful to learn how to combat these incidents as they happen.

  • Hill Denizen
  • John Brandis

    Speaking for myself, but I would not submit any type of information to an online form that has no information on where and who this data is actually going to. It seems like a bad idea,

  • Monique

    I think it’s funny that people think the police take the reporting of hate crimes seriously.

  • NormalAmerican

    Kudos to the OP for taking some steps, although I think it is misguided. I understand that OP did not state that he or she plans to report hate speech as a crime, but for background, while hate speech sucks, it does not necessarily constitute a crime. For some background, DC has a hate crime law (Bias-Related Crime Act of 1989, D.C. Official Code § 22-3700) and merely hateful speech will not implicate anyone. I’m not a fan of gathering a list to report these incidents because it seems just a bit too registry-like (even with the confidentiality), can be abused, and is passive.

    The American way, in my humble opinion, puts this on each and every one of us to do the right thing by countering the jackassery and bigotry that seemingly has become acceptable thanks to “FF von Clownstick.” We should nip it in the bud by speaking up next time we come across that core hateful language we all know is unacceptable in all walks of life (if safe and without escalating the situation–use common sense and judgment). In addition or if situation doesn’t call for you to speak up, then approach the victim to offer your assistance and support.


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