UK police chiefs have called emergency meetings to handle a surge in hate crimes across the country that have come in the wake of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union on Thursday.
The spike, which many have described as horrifying, has prompted police officials to demand enhanced sentencing for those convicted of hate-related crimes.
In post-Brexit Britain, vitriolic immigration rhetoric, violent assaults, and the defacing of buildings with racial slurs, has become part of daily life across the country. The surge in bigotry even prompted the creation of a Facebook album called “Worrying signs” to document hate crimes and xenophobic commentary by Brits.
The attacks have not been limited to Syrian refugees, with numerous reported instances of attacks at Polish community centers, as well as the use of the racial slur "Paki’s," used against Muslims of all walks of life who are told to "f*uck off back to your own country."
The post-Brexit hate crimes extend well beyond slurs, rhetoric and simple physical assault. More concerning attacks include a petrol bomb being launched into a Halal food store in Walsall that left one person injured, and an incident on a Manchester light-rail train where three men repeatedly struck and poured beer on a passenger while yelling "get back to Africa."
"The atmosphere on the street is not good," said Baroness Warsi, the first Muslim woman elected as a cabinet minister in the UK. She decried the leaders of the Leave effort for conducting a "divisive" and "xenophobic" campaign that sacrificed the safety and wellbeing of the country for the sake of political expediency.
"I’ve spent most of the weekend talking to organisations, individuals, and activists who work in the area of race hate crime, who monitor hate crime, and they have shown some really disturbing early results from people being stopped in the street and saying 'Look, we voted Leave, it’s time for you to leave,'" said Warsi.
Some pundits challenge the connection between the Brexit vote and Leave campaign rhetoric, citing a 326% increase in hate crimes in 2015, prior to the referendum.
Police counter this assertion, noting that while anti-immigrant sentiments have amassed over the past year in connection with the influx of Syrian refugees, there has been a 57% increase in reported hate crimes since the Brexit vote, over and above the already heightened statistics of the previous year.