Quoting Ben Franklin A Lightning Rod for Schneiderman


New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s use of historical quotes drew raised eyebrows on Thursday when, while discussing the surge of hate crimes following the presidential election, he brought up the Founders’ concerns that “scoundrels would put themselves forth for office.”

“This is all in the history books, I’m not making this up,” he said after laughter erupted throughout the room.

When a reporter questioned his choice of words, Schneiderman said he was not calling President-elect Donald Trump a scoundrel but was only talking about the two-tiered level of protection for Americans, specifically the importance of state laws when federal agencies fail.

“That was a line by, I think, Benjamin Franklin,” Schneiderman said, “and he never met Trump, as far as I’m concerned.”

Surrounded by civil rights advocates, Schneiderman’s focus was on steps his office would take to protect religious and other freedoms of New Yorkers. The first step was a bulletin which his office issued that morning to law enforcement offices statewide. The purpose was to assist in fast and accurate identification of hate crimes against immigrants, racial and religious minorities, women and the LGBTQ community, among others.

Schneiderman called on people to reacquaint themselves with state and federal laws and to contact local representatives with questions about agendas being pushed. Calling the country’s current situation a “movement,” he emphasized the importance of supporting local organizations fighting for equality.

Nonetheless, Trump was an inescapable topic. During the Q&A, Schneiderman was asked if there was a correlation between Trump’s campaign and the 31 pecent increase in bias-related crime primarily directed at Muslims and Jews in the past year, according to a recent announcement by the New York Police Department.

“The statistics are what the statistics are,” Schneiderman said. “But Make America White Again does resemble a slogan we heard a lot last year, so you can draw your own conclusions.”

The slogan, recently spray-painted, along with a swastika, on a building in Wellsville, New York, is one of many signs of newly unapologetic racism.

All civil rights leaders present expressed concern.

Angela Fernandez, Executive Director and supervising attorney of Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, said that the organization’s offices have swamped with worried immigrants since the election. Evan Bernstein, New York Regional Director at the Anti-Defamation League, said that there has been an increase in anti-semitic and bias incidents in the last eight days unlike any in the past decades. Kirsten John Foy, President of Brooklyn Chapter of the National Action Network, asked that people “resist the normalization of hate.”

“You ran on a law and order platform, Mr. Trump,” Foy said. “Stand up for law and order not just for a vote, but for the dignity of New Yorkers and indeed all Americans.”

Regarding Trump’s future presidency, Schneiderman urged people to remember that “One thing we know about the administration is that the fact they say they’re going to do something does not necessarily mean they’re going to do something.”

Photo by Linda Krestanova

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