A Howard County grand jury on Wednesday handed down a seven-count indictment against each of the four Glenelg High School students who were charged with hate crimes after swastikas and racial epithets were found scrawled on the school’s property in May.
“At each level nationally, statewide, here in the county, I’m of the opinion that it [hate crimes] is directly related to the climate we are in politically,” said Evelyn Del Rosario, a coordinator in the Howard Community College criminal justice department.
“We have parts of Maryland, [and] parts of Howard County that are very supportive of the president’s [Donald Trump] rhetoric,” Del Rosario said.
Del Rosario — pointing to Trump’s remarks calling undocumented immigrants “animals” — said this type of speech “kind of gives off the sense that it’s OK, that we don’t have to be politically correct right now.”
In 2017 the highest number of incidents were in June, which “ doesn’t surprise me,” Rosario said.
“More crimes happen in the summer,” she said. “During the summer months [there is] more accessibility to victims and the days are longer.”
The motivation was “primarily race-based, anti-black or African American sentiments,” for the 2017 reported crimes, according to the report. The categories of anti-Jewish and anti-male gay followed.
Most victims of crime are young black and brown males between the ages of 16 and 30 years old, according to Del Rosario.
“We have had [hate or bias] incidents in the county with high school students,” Del Rosario said.
On May 24, swastikas and racial epithets, including one that Howard County police said targeted the school’s African-American principal, were found painted on campus sidewalks, outside walls and the parking lot of Glenelg High School.
Four high school graduates face identical seven-count indictments, including three hate-crime charges.
The four are awaiting their trials, set in November and December.
It was the second incident of its kind at Glenelg High School in two years. Graffiti depicting swastikas and an anti-African American racial slur were discovered inside one of the school’s bathrooms in March 2017, according to state police.
The country is at a point in time where hate or bias incidents are “considered more acceptable because others are deemed less worthy,” Del Rosario said.
“I think the CEO of a corporation they set the tone what is acceptable and I think we are at a time right now where the CEO of our corporation [the United States], the president, is setting the tone that these kind of actions are tolerable,” Del Rosario said.
A hate crime is a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity, ” according to the FBI.