Police are discounting recent social media reports of racial intimidation in downtown Bellingham in the wake of Donald Trump’s victory in the Nov. 8 presidential election.
In posts on the Bellingham Police Department’s Facebook page and at the social media site Nextdoor.com, Neighborhood Police Officer Eric Osterkamp said the posts are part of a “false narrative” being circulated online. Nextdoor.com is a private social media website for neighborhoods and their residents.
“The posts have to do with the Bellingham City Center having an increased presence of ‘white supremacists,’ making it ‘unsafe’ for certain people to be out and about in the City Center. Please do not continue to perpetuate this. Our City Center officers have been contacted, and it has been confirmed, that this information is not substantiated by what they are experiencing and/or observing downtown.”
At least one post on the Bellingham Racial Justice Coalition’s Facebook page alleges such behavior, without citing specifics.
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A Nov. 10 post by Tiana Noll on the Bellingham Racial Justice Coalition page says, in part: “Reports and resources have confirmed a large skinhead population downtown. If you are black or brown, I highly advise you to stay away from downtown.”
Noll cites no direct or first-hand evidence of her claim or sources for her information. She could not be immediately reached Wednesday.
Elsewhere across the U.S., the Southern Poverty Law Center has cited more than 400 instances of hateful harassment since the election.
But Bellingham Police Lt. Bob Vander Yacht said there have been no reported issues of racial harassment or racially motivated attacks in Bellingham.
“Without reports to police that validate this type of activity, it seems more likely to be someone trying to get a rise out of the community,” he said.
Nevertheless, police said they want residents to know that they take hate crimes seriously. Anyone who witnesses a hate crime, or knows someone who has, should call 911 or the department’s public service officer at 360-778-8804.