Blame goes left and right for hate crimes, political violence

A hate-crime expert’s report to Los Angeles County officials on the reasons for a rise in political violence is something people should hear — even if they’d rather not.

Nobody wants to be told that their side of the political divide is partly to blame for the dark turn in the climate of debate. We’d all like to think it’s the other side that takes things too far.

So it’s informative to read the report by Professor Brian Levin of Cal State San Bernardino’s Department of Criminal Justice, and see that the political left and right are both responsible.

Levin presented his report, based on Los Angeles Police Department data, last week to L.A. County’s Network Against Hate Crime.

It showed that the city of Los Angeles had 230 hate crimes in 2016, up 15 percent from 2015 — L.A.’s first consecutive annual increases in two decades.

Crimes motivated by the victim’s identity were led last year by 54 against blacks, 42 against gay men, 37 against Jewish people and 25 against Hispanics.

But next on the list were 12 hate crimes listed as “anti-white,” up from seven the year before.

That’s more than the number of hate crimes against Muslims, or against Asians or Pacific islanders.

Official statistics on hate crimes don’t include crimes targeting members of political groups. But violence at political demonstrations also rose in 2016 in the heat of the presidential race, Levin said. The rising threat to civil discourse, he said, now comes from the extreme left.

“The hard left now poses a distinct threat to the maintenance of free speech on some California [university] campuses, like UC Berkeley, owing to their swarming of campuses featuring bigoted or controversial speakers,” Levin said in his report.

Levin said: “Armed anti-racist, black bloc, Antifa and other hard-left partisans … not only targeted hate groups, racist skinheads, and Alt-Right partisans, but police, journalists, campus venues and [Donald] Trump supporters as well, a small number of whom sometimes instigated violence.”

Neither political extreme can escape responsibility. That’s a hard lesson for many people to learn. Which is why it’s the message must be heard.