This is the second story in a two-part series exploring increases in hate incidents in Montgomery County. The first story focused on trends in the state as a whole and how some patterns were also reflected in the county.
Montgomery County Council President Evan Glass (D-At-large) said that in 2021, the hate incidents were as high as they had been in about a decade, and then in 2022, they climbed even higher. There was a 22% increase in hate bias incidents reported from 2021 to 2022 the report showed.
“We must step up to combat these alarming incidents here in Montgomery County and across the state,” Glass said in an email statement. “We have seen alarming rates of hate bias incidents, particularly in the last few years.”
This number of hate bias incidents is also the highest of any county in the state, according to the report. Baltimore County had the second highest tally with a reported 98 incidents in 2022.
The report echoes increases in hate incidents previously reported this year by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and Montgomery County Public Schools and comes amid efforts to combat hate, including curriculum changes and MCPS mandatory staff training.
Montgomery County is the most diverse county in the state, according to Niche.com, and that diversity could be leading to more hate, said Montgomery County Councilmember Kate Stewart (D-Dist. 4).
“The very intentional work we do in our county to be an inclusive community has also made us the target,” Stewart said.
In 2022, the Montgomery County population was recorded to be 58.4% white, 20.7% Black, 16.2% Asian, 3.7% mixed race and less than one percent American Indian and Pacific Islander, the state police’s report showed.
Also, according to Montgomery County’s Police, the county is 10% Jewish, which is significantly higher than the percentage of Jews in the U.S., which is about 2.5%.
The state police’s report showed that many of the incidents reported were in the following ZIP codes: 20817, 20852 and 20910, which are comprised of Bethesda, North Bethesda, Rockville, Potomac, Silver Spring and Takoma Park.
Stewart’s district contains 20852 and 20910.
“District Four is one of the most diverse places we have in Montgomery County,” Stewart said. “We have people from all over the world who live here, and we have also a very high percentage of people who are Jewish in the community as well LGBTQ members of our community.”
The group that faced the most amount of hate in 2022, according to the report: the Jewish community.
Experts have pointed to the influence of celebrities—such as Ye (formerly Kanye West) making antisemitic comments on social media—and the failure by former President Donald Trump to condemn antisemitic protesters at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017.
“The perpetrators of those incidents and those hate crimes have been motivated by antisemitic statements made by some of the individuals like Kanye West,” Weisel said. “It’s important to remember that Kanye West has about 30 million followers, and there are only [about] 15 million Jewish people worldwide.”
Weisel also said that “Donald Trump…has made statements that translate into real-world incidents.”
In Montgomery County, incidents motivated by religion grew from 30 to 47, a 56.7% increase, according to the police report. (The report did not specify which religions in the county-level data.)
Montgomery County Police reported slightly different numbers in its 2022 Hate Bias report but said that of the incidents motivated by bias toward religion, 91% were considered anti-Jewish.
Meredith Weisel, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in Washington, D.C. citied ignorance as one reason people commit acts of hate toward others in their community.
“Antisemitism can show up in a different lot of places, and when you have very diverse areas, there can be ignorance or lack of knowledge and understanding of Judaism and who the Jewish people are,” Weisel said.
Stewart said that improving education is crucial to combating hate.
“Education is so important, and particularly over the last couple of years, we’re really making sure we’re doing good education around antisemitism,” Stewart said.
Weisel said that this applies to antisemitism, racism, homophobia and other forms of hate, and that is it important for schools to work with “students day-to-day,” especially young students, educating them on why certain things are offensive and hateful.
Glass said that despite the increased hate incidents, the county’s diversity should be celebrated.
“We must embrace our diversity and acknowledge that it is our greatest asset,” Glass said.
Glass launched the county’s Anti-Hate Task Force earlier this year, which includes community and faith leaders in Montgomery County who will develop recommendations to combat hate and make the county safer for everyone.
The cohorts include members from the African American and Black, Latino and Hispanic, Asian American Pacific Islander, LGBTQ+, Jewish and Muslim communities.
He said that the task force will present their recommendations to the County Council on Nov. 28.
“Their recommendations will help guide and strengthen the council’s policies related to public safety and bias incidents,” Glass said.