The Arkansas Public Policy Panel and Arkansas Citizens First Congress have called for a coordinated response to reports of election-related mistreatment of minority students.
The grassroots groups called on Gov. Asa Hutchinson and others to respond to reports of “assaults, racial slurs and hate crimes against Black and Latino students across Arkansas.”
We’ve heard specific reports of supporters of President-elect Trump’s campaign attacking students of color in Conway, Fayetteville, Hamburg, Little Rock, Springdale, and Star City. It is likely happening elsewhere. Many of the student assailants are using a common refrain and hashtag #TrumpTrain.
We’ve also heard of a few incidents where students who are Trump supporters have been accosted by supporters of Hillary Clinton and that is also wrong. But the bigger problem is that whole groups of students are afraid to go to school simply because of their race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, political, or other identities. It goes without saying that EVERY child should be safe and free from bullying and harassment.
We believe these acts of intolerance are being committed by a very small minority of Arkansans and that most of us still retain basic respect for one another across our many lines of differences.
UPDATE: The governor issued a prepared statement later:
“I have full confidence in our local school officials to assure that each school is a place of safety and learning. Educating students in our elections and democracy is an important part of our presidential campaigns and I am glad students are engaged and interested. I have not been made aware of any specific problems in our schools.”
We reported some of these incidents yesterday and today and have subsequently had other reports, including that of a black Little Rock student on a school bus taunted with doggerel that include a racial epithet.
The news release said:
Our political leaders must denounce hatred, racism, and intolerance and advocate restoring peaceful, respectful civil discourse. They must reassure every American, some of whom are genuinely afraid of their new government, that they have a place and an opportunity in our country. A key strength of our American culture is that we can work through major differences in policy and world view peacefully, respectfully and in the hopes of serving the greater national interest.
UPDATE 2: Star City Police Chief Cody Drake said today that two juveniles were arrested Thursday at the school based on a police investigation into Wednesday’s incident. One was charged with third-degree battery, disorderly conduct and terroristic threatening and the other on a charge of disorderly conduct.
If you read the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette this morning, you might have assumed that the students arrested where the white kids taunting the black kids with “Trump train” slogans. It was not. The two arrested were African-American girls. They were to be arraigned today.
Lincoln County prosecutor Clint Todd said the arrests were made based on information gleaned from social media posts — one of the girls arrested had posted on Facebook about going to school to “fuck somebody up,” he said — and a video shot on a cellphone. He said the child charged with third-degree battery punched another student the face who tried to intervene in a confrontation. He said he would welcome evidence that showed that those who were yelling “Trump Train” were also telling the black students to go back to Africa.
Todd also criticized the Democrat-Gazette’s reporting, saying reporter Brandon Mulder was trying to make the story fit the national headlines about Trump supporters assailing racial and religious minorities. Todd checked up on Mulder on Facebook, and noted that he had a photograph of Barack Obama on the page, which he believed was evidence of bias.
Mulder also had a picture of Kermit the Frog on his page, so he should probably stay away from the herpetology beat, as well.