American residents remain fearful as post-election violence escalates in US

The Schellhamer family from Kansas City want to come to live in New Zealand following the election of Donald Trump. (L-R) Sophia, 12, Molly, 6, and Gina and Steven. Photo / Supplied
The Schellhamer family from Kansas City want to come to live in New Zealand following the election of Donald Trump. (L-R) Sophia, 12, Molly, 6, and Gina and Steven. Photo / Supplied

A Kiwi expat and an American hoping to move to New Zealand have described what it was like to experience first-hand the post-election violence unfolding across the United States.

As protests across the country continue for the fourth consecutive day since citizens elected Donald Trump as their next president, American residents remain fearful.

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Steve Schellhamer, an American father-of-two living in the midwestern state of Kansas said he was "genuinely scared" of what was happening in the US and hoped to move to New Zealand to escape the escalating violence.

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He told the Herald he had heard gunshots echo through the streets of his usually peaceful neighbour every night since the election.

He believed the shots were fired by "Trump supporters celebrating and I guess as a form of intimidation against others".

Schellhamer described the social climate in the US as an "extremely toxic situation" and said it was "much worse" than it was portrayed to be in international media.

At an anti-Trump protest this week in his hometown of Kansas City, Schellhamer overheard Trump supporters saying "the most vile things" to Asian and African-American protesters.

"I have never witnessed anything like that in my life. I never thought in my lifetime I would see anything like this.

The Schellhamer family, Steven (left), Sophia, 12, Molly, 6, and Gina, want to leave the US and come to live in New Zealand following the election of Donald Trump. Photo/Supplied
The Schellhamer family, Steven (left), Sophia, 12, Molly, 6, and Gina, want to leave the US and come to live in New Zealand following the election of Donald Trump. Photo/Supplied

"Every time I see someone who is not white I just have the urge to shake their hand and give them a hug to apologise for what has happened and what may happen to them in the future."

Data from Immigration New Zealand (INZ) showed Schellhamer was not the only American who wanted to move here.

INZ marketing manager Greg Forsythe said on Friday that 56,300 Americans visited the INZ website in the 24 hours after the election, or 24 times the number who typically registered on the site.

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"INZ typically receives about 3000 registrations each month via the New Zealand Now website from US nationals interested in studying, working or investing," Forsythe said.

Meanwhile, a Kiwi expat has spoken out about being threatened with a knife and racially abused in California.

Indian-New Zealand doctor and former Young New Zealander of the Year Divya Dhar said she and a visiting Kiwi friend were waiting at a San Francisco train station on Thursday evening when she felt a "sharp shove from behind" by a passerby.

"And then I see the guy turn around and he had a knife in his hand. He's flailing it around and saying things like f*** n***** n***** f***."

Dhar's friend, Vinny Lohan, tried approach the man, who was a curly-haired Caucasian in his mid-30s wearing a white T-shirt and blue jeans and walking with a bike, but Dhar stopped him.

She said she feared her attacker might stab Lohan or someone else.

Dhar did not respond to the man and called police after he left shortly after.

"He started to move away from us and he would just turn around once in a while and still had his knife out and was still cursing."

While the man did not mention anything about the election, Dhar said she was aware there had been "a spike in hate crimes" since the election and she "couldn't help but wonder if they were connected".

"I've been in this country for five years and this has never happened. I've never even heard anybody say the word n***** out loud."

"Honestly the thing I felt the most was disbelief. I just couldn't understand what was happening and why he was so angry."

Onlookers who witnessed the incident called police and a few rushed over to check on Dhar and Lohan, waiting with them until the man was out of view.

Dhar said Americans needed to band together to prevent other racially charged attacks.

"We need to be active participants in creating a positive change rather than a negative change.

"It made me fire up. I don't want to run away. If you're running away in fear it's basically saying to these people 'it's okay that you behave like this'."

Instead, she said it was more important to ask: "How do we heal all of America, including the people who have so much anger against different minorities?".

- NZ Herald

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