Nov. 16 2016 12:50 AM

Trump win unsettles those outside region's mainstream

Friends show their support at the Islamic Center of Greater Lansing in East Lansing on Friday after a rumor spread that neo-Nazis planned to demonstrate there in the wake of Donald Trump’s election.
Courtesy Photo

As the map on the television screens in his apartment changed colors Tuesday night, Ben Schroff and his friends saw the hope of a Hillary Clinton presidency slip away and the terror of a Donald Trump presidency arise.

“It was a dramatic shift in the mood in the room,” the 21-year-old MSU student leader said — a palpable dread set in. The dread, he said, was informed by the unprecedented campaign rhetoric of Trump — mocking the disabled, calling for registering Muslims, assuring the right he would appoint justices to overturn marriage equality, promising to deport over 11 million undocumented people from the country and build a wall, attacking the media.

That dread seemed a precursor to local incidents. Lansing Police are investigating two incidents of vandalism on Michigan Avenue. On Wednesday, a building at the corner of Lathrop and Michigan, which was displaying Trump for President signs, was spray-painted with “Fuck Trump” and a window was broken. The other incident involved spray painting City Pulse Thursday or Friday overnight. A vandal spray painted “Fuck U” on City Pulse itself and what appears to be a swastika on property next door associated with the newspaper.

Schroff and his peers organized a rally and march Thursday to respond to the election of Donald Trump.

Friday also brought a rumor that neo-Nazis would demonstrate outside the Islamic Center of Greater Lansing in East Lansing, its outreach coordinator ,Thasin Sardar, said. When he arrived, there were people with signs in front of the center.

“I was disturbed they showed up with signs,” he said. “But then I saw they were there to support us. It was heartwarming.”

But the presidential campaign rhetoric about and against Muslims has not been easy, said other members of the group.

Farha Abbasi is a psychiatrist originally from Pakistan who teaches at MSU. Her research specialty is mental health issues in the Muslim community. A naturalized citizen, she called the election result “disheartening.”

However, she saw the impact of the election even before the ballots had been counted.

“In the weeks before the election I had graduate students who were paranoid to the point of disconnection,” she said. One student had to be hospitalized, while another was stabilized without hospitalization she said.

She cited an incident in Ann Arbor this weekend, where a female Muslim student had her hajib torn from her head.

Still, she remains positive.

“I have hope that we can come together,” she said. “I believe in out of many, one. We need to find the spirit of America again.”

Jaime Esquiveil, 50, came to this country from Mexico as a legal worker in 1990. His visa and work permit expired and he didn’t renew them, but he continued to work in the U.S., eventually moving to Lansing to be near family. In 2009, he got lost in Detroit and ended up at the Canadian border. He was arrested. While he was originally ordered deported, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that order. He is still awaiting a final determination by immigration officials.

“They are watching me very closely, just waiting for me to do something wrong,” he said. “Then they can deport me.”

He fears for his family should immigration officials deport him. He has twin 12-year-old daughters and an 18-year-old son attending LCC. “I am the bread winner for the house. If I am deported, we will lose everything,” he said.

Esquiveil, a construction worker, asked his children if they would want to go with him to Mexico, and they declined. “It’s not safe for them. Plus they don’t know the language or the culture. This is their country.”

He’s zen about his future. “I have to just wait and see.”

Concern for the safety of family was a common refrain in interviews this weekend. Abbasi, the psychiatrist, said she worries for her own daughters, who were part of the reason she escaped Pakistan in the first place.

“I fear things will be worse here, now,” she said.

Okemos High School freshman Angela Demas was met with chants of “Lock her up” when she and her girlfriend walked in the hallway with a sign calling for unity.
Courtesy Photo

Those who supported Trump are also feeling the backlash. Joanna Dresden, 33, lives in Brighton and is a graduate of MSU. She voted for Trump and was horrified when, days after the election a gay friend of 13 years announced he would no longer be friends with anyone who voted for Trump.

She said the dissolution of her friendship “hurt,” but she noted she understood the fears.

“But those fears go both ways,” she said.

There have also been incidents in the local schools. In DeWitt, middle school students chanted "build a wall." In Charlotte, school leaders are responding to “inappropriate comments” but aren’t releasing much detail. In Eaton Rapids elementary age students posted “I don’t like gays” on their lockers.

The LGBT community is experiencing some backlash, according to reports. The Lansing State Journal reported Saturday that three Okemos women who share an apartment — two of whom are legally married to each other — awoke to find the word “fags” written in black marker on their door.

Also in Okemos, 14-year-old Angela Demas, who is the daughter of Inside Michigan Politics editor and publisher Susan Demas, tried to call for unity in the face of divisive campaign rhetoric. She was met with chants of “Lock her up,” as she and her girlfriend walked in the hallway with a sign. Angela is out as a lesbian in the school, said her mother. She was uncertain if her daughter’s sexual orientation played a role in the incident.

“It’s pretty clear gender played a role,” she said.

Agustin V. Arbulu, director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, expressed concern about reports of harassment and intimidation in schools and colleges. He urged schools and parents to intervene in any such bullying incidents and asked those who are victimized to report the incidents to the department for investigation.

On Monday, the FBI released hate crimes incident statistics from 2015. The agency found 5,818 single-bias incidents involving 7,121 victims. Of them, 59.2 percent of victims were targeted because of race, ethnicity or ancestry; 19.7 percent because of religion; and 17.7 percent for sexual orientation.

In the three days after the election, the Southern Poverty Law Center documented over 200 election-related incidents of hate around the country.