When Joe Gavish saw the truck, with its “I Hate Muslims” bumper sticker and enormous flapping Trump flags, he knew it would catch fire on social media. So he quickly posted a video on Facebook, along with a plea to “check this guy out.”
But he did not quite expect the level of outrage provoked by the video, which went up the afternoon after Election Day and within about 24 hours had racked up 300,000 views. Strangers posted expletive-laden comments and dug up the truck owner’s name and address. Other commenters suggested the driver had good reason for his views. By Wednesday night, Gavish had deleted the video.
“I felt like it was just spreading anger,” said Gavish, 27, owner of Weard Beard Trading Co., a gemstone firm in Brooksville, Fla. “I hope this country is heading in a good direction. I’m just not sure right now.”
Three days since businessman Donald Trump won the presidency, it is clear that the animosity wrought by a historically divisive election did not simply die in its wake, but may have intensified.
U.S. cities have been convulsed by anti-Trump protests. Swastikas, racial slurs and personal threats have appeared on public buildings and dorm room doors. And online, the vicious word-slinging between supporters of the two candidates has escalated to include videotaped accounts of personal confrontation and retribution.
“You can’t fix months of really divisive rhetoric with a couple of calls for unity,” said Oren Segal, director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism. “We can’t forget that a fringe element of our society was emboldened over a period of months, and it’s going to take more than words to create an atmosphere where people feel truly united.”
At a Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on Friday, President Obama again called for reconciliation. He noted that the federal holiday “often follows a hard-fought political campaign — an exercise in the free speech and self-government that . . . often lays bare disagreements across our nation. But the American instinct has never been to find isolation in opposite corners. It is to find strength in our common creed, to forge unity from our great diversity, to sustain that strength and unity even when it is hard.”
The remarks came after another night of unruly protesters in a handful of cities smashed cars, lit fires and vandalized buildings. At least 350 people have been arrested this week — more than half of them during protests in Los Angeles — amid demonstrations that included highway blockades, angry chants of “Not my president” and a rampage through Portland, Ore., that police declared a “riot.”
The protests continued for a third night on Friday in Atlanta, Miami and other cities, but remained largely peaceful.
Trump, too, departed briefly from his calls for reconciliation Thursday night to blast the protesters on Twitter, but tweeted Friday that the protesters were exercising their constitutional rights.
But a Trump adviser described the protesters as “messed up” and “clueless.”
“If they want to protest and make fools of themselves, that’s fine,” Carl P. Paladino, Trump’s New York campaign co-
chairman, said in an interview with The Washington Post. “This isn’t like Vietnam, where there was a war and misery to protest. I have no idea what these protesters are really protesting other than what the media tells them is a bad thing.”
The vitriol was not limited to those angry about Tuesday’s results. Across the country, women and minorities reported incidents of intimidation perpetrated by Trump supporters or those claiming to be, who under the cloak of anonymity seemed to see in the results a validation of their extremist views.
Many of the incidents took place at schools and colleges.
At Wake Forest University, some freshmen ran out of a dorm early Wednesday celebrating Trump’s victory and using slurs, including the n-word. University officials condemned the behavior, and said two suspects have been identified.
On social media, students at the University of Pennsylvania shared screen shots of a text they received indicating they had been added to a racist Group Me account that included a “daily lynching” calendar. A law student posted on Facebook, “I just can’t stop crying. I feel sick to my stomach. I don’t feel safe.”
University officials are investigating in hopes of cutting off the offending account.
Leaders at Babson College in Massachusetts apologized for two male students who had driven a pickup truck around neighboring all-female Wellesley College, flying a Trump flag and shouting “highly offensive” remarks Wednesday.
And at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering, someone wrote “Trump!” on the door of a room reserved for Muslim prayer.
Elementary, middle and high school classrooms and cafeterias also became backdrops for the nation’s divisions.
In Newtown, Pa., swastikas and anti-gay epithets were scrawled on bathroom walls, and a Latina student found a note stuffed into her backpack, warning her to go back to Mexico. Middle school students in Royal Oak, Mich., erupted in “Build the wall!” chants during their lunch period, echoing a Trump rallying cry.
And on Wednesday, two white high school students in York County, Pa., were videotaped holding a Trump sign and parading through the halls as someone yelled “white power.”
Sandra Thompson, president of the NAACP branch in York County, wondered what it meant. “Regardless of what they heard from politics, why did they believe that they could be so vocal in the midst of the school?”
It was also unclear whether the rage and hostility of recent days would fade with greater distance from Election Day.
“Part of that depends on events and decisions that have not yet been made, and part of that depends on the behavior of the president-elect,” said Michael Barone, a historian and resident fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.
Barone, who blames most of the post-election strife on liberals, said he couldn’t recall a presidential election in American history that had inspired as much partisan rancor as this one.
But he and other experts also agreed that most of the 120 million people who voted have not visited their gloating or despair on their fellow citizens.
“There’s been so much increased visibility for white supremacists and extremist groups as a consequence of this election, but that doesn’t mean the majority of people who identify as Trump supporters are actually the white supremacists,” said Segal, of the ADL. “The majority of people, Republican or Democrat, are not extremist.”
Nusrat Qadir Chaudhry, a Muslim neonatal-intensive-care nurse who wears a headscarf, said she was nearly paralyzed by anxiety when she got word of Trump’s victory during her overnight hospital shift in Manhattan.
Two months ago she was assaulted by a white man in a parking lot, she told her co-workers. She feared it would happen again.
But when she walked out into the morning sunlight, no one shouted insults or attacked her. Instead she was approached by two female strangers. “I’m sorry,” one said. “We’re not all like that.” Then she offered her a hug.
Emma Brown, Mark Berman, Robert Costa and Alice Crites contributed to this report.