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San Jose police investigate possible hate crime after man cuts down banner calling for Gaza ceasefire

San Jose police are investigating a suspected hate crime after a man used a knife to cut down a banner calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

The incident happened Sunday as Muslim volunteers were putting up a banner where Park Avenue crosses Highway 880.

A Muslim activist shot the video and said he was shocked when a man pulled over, called him a terrorist and other slurs, then took out a knife and cut down the banner calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

The volunteer did not want to be identified because of security concerns.

“I felt very threatened for my life when he pulled out that knife and started waving it. I felt very threatened,” he said. 

At the Council on American Islamic Relations, or CAIR, executive director Zahra Billoo said the incident should be considered a hate crime and needs to be vigorously investigated.

“These volunteers were advocating for peace in Palestine, and they were approached by an aggressive man who called them Muslim slurs,” said Billoo. “It should be investigated as a hate crime.”

NBC Bay Area reached out to San Jose police who say they have identified the man involved and are submitting the case to the DA for a warrant with a request to add hate crime charges.  The final decision will rest with prosecutors.

In a statement,  police Chief Anthony Mata said, “there is zero tolerance for hate and hate crimes in San Jose. All hate incidents are treated with the utmost seriousness, and will be given priority attention.

The same activist says a different man stole his banner at the same location on Dec. 3. Police are investigating that as well.

“We’ve seen more than half a dozen hate crimes in the San Francisco Bay Area,” said Billoo. 

It’s part of a trend nationwide. According to CAIR, there has been a 170% increase in reports of Islamophobia-related crimes on the job, racism, and bullying reported this year compared to last.

Despite this encounter, the volunteer who put up the banner says he will not let it stop him from sharing his plea for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Source: NBC Bay Area

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