Reports of racist incidents and even hate crimes across the U.K. are on the rise after Thursday’s vote, leading to concern that the divisive campaign over leaving the European Union has emboldened certain extremist elements of society. More than 100 incidents “of racial abuse and hate crime” have been reported since Thursday’s vote, according to the Independent. Many of those incidents had the perpetrators reference the vote explicitly to justify the violence.
In Hammersmith, West London, xenophobic graffiti was found at the entrance of the Polish Social and Cultural Association on Sunday morning. Although the police wouldn’t comment on what the graffiti said, Twitter users said it read, “Go Home.” Police are also investigating reports that laminated cards that read “Leave the EU/No more Polish vermin” were distributed in Huntingdon,* including outside an elementary school.
There are also many reports about growing incidents of verbal abuse on the streets against people perceived to be immigrants. “I’ve spent most of the weekend talking to organizations, 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,” Baroness Warsi, former chairwoman of the Conservative Party, said.
Shockingly, many of the street incidents are being reported right in cosmopolitan London. A 26-year-old Frenchman visiting London, for example, says a man began shouting “leave, leave!” at him and a friend when they were overheard speaking French. A Facebook user created an album titled “worrying signs” to collect all the reports of violence and abuse.
“There is no question the U.K. is shifting to a more racist atmosphere and policies. This is a rhetoric that’s showing up in the lives of schoolchildren,” Adam Posen, the president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, tells Bloomberg. “We’re legitimizing politics and politicians that play with racism in a much more dangerous way than Richard Nixon ever did.”
*Correction, June 26, 2016, at 3:43 p.m.: This post originally misstated where the laminated cards were distributed. It was in Huntingdon, not Cambridge.