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June 19, 2015 0

Murders in Charleston Again Demonstrate the Tragic Impact of Hate Violence

The hor­ri­ble mur­ders of nine parish­ioners dur­ing a June 17 evening prayer meet­ing at the his­toric Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Car­olina seem like a night­mare.  But they were real – hor­rific and sense­less.  And they were hate crimes.  The nature of the shoot­ings, the spe­cific loca­tion, the tar­geted vic­tims, state­ments allegedly made by the sus­pect, and a Face­book pro­file of the sus­pect wear­ing white suprema­cist sym­bols all indi­cate this tragedy was moti­vated by racial bias.

It is note­wor­thy that these race-based mur­ders hap­pened in one of only five states that has yet to enact a hate crimes law.  The time has come for that to change.

AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton

AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton

Obvi­ously, con­victed mur­der­ers already face the most severe penal­ties under the law in every state.    But hate crimes laws have a sig­nif­i­cance that extends beyond the tougher sen­tences they per­mit.  They are a strong soci­etal response to crimes specif­i­cally intended to intim­i­date the vic­tim and mem­bers of the victim’s com­mu­nity.  By mak­ing mem­bers of minor­ity com­mu­ni­ties fear­ful, angry, and sus­pi­cious of other groups – and of the power struc­ture that is sup­posed to pro­tect them – these mes­sage crimes can dam­age the fab­ric of our soci­ety and frag­ment communities.

The FBI and law enforce­ment offi­cials rec­og­nize the spe­cial impact of hate crimes.  The FBI has been col­lect­ing hate crime data from the 18,000 police agen­cies across the coun­try since 1990.   In 2013, the most recent FBI data avail­able, almost 6,000 hate crimes were reported by over 15,000 police depart­ments – almost one every 90 min­utes of every day.  Race-based hate crimes were most fre­quent, crimes com­mit­ted against gay men and les­bians sec­ond, and religion-based crimes were third most fre­quent, with anti-Jewish crimes a dis­turb­ing 61% of all reported religion-based crimes.

Fed­eral and state hate crime laws are an impor­tant demon­stra­tion that our soci­ety rec­og­nizes the unique impact of hate vio­lence.  45 states and the Dis­trict of Colum­bia now have enacted hate crime laws, many based on the ADL Model Law drafted in 1981.  The only five states with­out a penalty-enhancing hate crime law are Arkansas, Indi­ana, Geor­gia, Wyoming – and South Carolina.

Attor­ney Gen­eral Lynch has announced that the Depart­ment of Jus­tice has opened its own hate crime inves­ti­ga­tion of this ter­ri­ble crime – under fed­eral crim­i­nal civil rights laws, includ­ing the Matthew Shep­ard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Pre­ven­tion Act.  That essen­tial fed­eral statute is an impor­tant bul­wark, but it is not a sub­sti­tute for state hate crimes laws.   South Car­olina is in mourn­ing now, as we all are.  One of the most con­struc­tive ways for the state to move for­ward would be to join 45 other states who already have hate crimes laws.

We need to be real­is­tic.  We can­not leg­is­late, reg­u­late, or tab­u­late an end to racism, anti-Semitism, or big­otry.  Com­ple­ment­ing fed­eral and state hate crime laws and pre­ven­tion ini­tia­tives, gov­ern­ments must pro­mote early learn­ing and con­tin­u­ing edu­ca­tion against bias and dis­crim­i­na­tion in schools and the com­mu­nity.   Strong, inclu­sive laws, and effec­tive responses to hate vio­lence by pub­lic offi­cials and law enforce­ment author­i­ties, how­ever, are essen­tial com­po­nents in deter­ring and pre­vent­ing these crimes.  

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June 19, 2015 2

White Supremacists React To Charleston Tragedy With Anger, Vitriol

dylannstormroof

Dylann Storm Roof

As news spread of the tragic shoot­ing ram­page at the Emmanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston, South Car­olina, America’s white suprema­cists reacted swiftly.  The killing spree left nine dead and a com­mu­nity in shock. The alleged shooter, Dylann Storm Roof, was arrested on June 18 and charged with nine counts of mur­der one day later.

Some white suprema­cists were, pre­dictably, openly delighted by the mas­sacre. On The Daily Stormer, a pop­u­lar neo-Nazi web site, there was unabashed praise for Roof. “He had the balls to do what most white suprema­cists only talk big about,” com­mented Spar­tan 117 (punc­tu­a­tion and word­ing in com­ments repro­duced here are as in the orig­i­nals). “He is prob­a­bly tired of all the race mix­ing pro­pa­ganda, arro­gant blacks, and tired of the negro get­ting pushed down his throat at every turn…. who cares what fate befalls the negros. We should have as much con­sid­er­a­tion for blacks as we do a fuck­ing tape­worm latched onto to our gut. Face it, negros are an enemy peo­ple to us, we shouldn’t care what hap­pens to these arro­gant n—–s.”

Oth­ers cheered Roof because they believe his actions would has­ten the destruc­tion of Amer­i­can cities, seen by some white suprema­cists as ground zero for the diver­sity “prob­lem.”  A poster iden­ti­fy­ing him­self as John Sov­er­eign wrote on the white suprema­cist dis­cus­sion forum Van­guard News Net­work (VNN) that “the best thing that will come out of this is more ape rage and more cities destroyed…Good! Keep it up.”

Many posters on Storm­front, the most pop­u­lar white suprema­cist Inter­net forum, fret­ted over the impact the shoot­ing would have on the white suprema­cist cause, empha­siz­ing the appar­ent lack of con­nec­tion between Roof and orga­nized racist groups. “I’ve heard of tar­get­ing ‘soft tar­gets,’” wrote user Fid­dler, “but this lat­est lone wolf nitwit picked a ‘mushy target.’Could he have pos­si­bly cho­sen more sym­pa­thetic victims?”

Gen­er­ally, com­ments on Storm­front were more muted than at some other white suprema­cist venues, with a few Storm­fron­ters even express­ing dis­gust over the vio­lence. This drew the ire of white suprema­cists on other forums, such as VNN.  “They are cry­ing over the split blood of these ‘Chris­t­ian’ N—–s over on Storm­front,” posted user EricPow­ers on  VNN. “Can’t believe so many peo­ple have sym­pa­thy on these N—–s just because their Chris­tians. Like that some how makes them sympathetic.”

The real “vic­tims” in this tragedy, accord­ing to some white suprema­cists, were the white suprema­cists themselves—and their 2nd Amend­ment rights. Right-wing extrem­ists fre­quently cast vio­lent acts in the news as con­spir­a­cies and “false flag” oper­a­tions intended to falsely cast blame on the extreme right, pos­si­bly as an excuse for some sort of crack­down.  Roof, to many extrem­ists, was just a pawn in a larger conspiracy–perhaps orches­trated by the Jews—to exac­er­bate racial ten­sions and deprive Amer­i­cans of their guns. The true risk after a shoot­ing like this, accord­ing to Daily Stormer poster Ben­nis Mar­dens, was that “the Jews” would respond by crack­ing down on gun own­er­ship. “The kid is nuts,” Mar­dens wrote. “He’s not a ‘hero.’ He didn’t help our cause. Now the Jews will push for gun con­fis­ca­tion and more hate crimes legislation….Furthermore, not all black peo­ple hate white peo­ple. They ARE more tribal than we are, for sure, but their anger toward us is CAUSED by the Jew media and Jew academics.”

Brian Avran, a self-described National Social­ist, raised the idea of “race war” in a June 18 Face­book post: “I smell a psyop/ gov­ern­ment op. just like Sandy hook, Aurora and Columbine. This church shoot­ing is what the media needs; a ran­dom act of white-on-black vio­lence to push their hate whitey agenda, since an epi­demic of black-on-white vio­lence is hap­pen­ing every day, which goes unre­ported. ‘They’ want a race war. it might also be used as incen­tive for more gun con­trol laws. “

“It didn’t take long for the media to begin the race bait­ing with the Dylann Roof shoot­ing,” wrote Storm­front mem­ber “stuck on stu­pid.”  “This will be used to flame the fires of the on going race war. Please arm your­self and be pre­pared to defend your life at any moment.”

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June 17, 2015 0

White House Hosts Conference on Combating International LGBT Hate Crimes

whitehouse

On June 12, the White House hosted a “Con­ver­sa­tion on Com­bat­ing Bias-Motivated Vio­lence against LGBT Per­sons Around the World.”  Bias-motivated vio­lence against LGBT indi­vid­u­als remains dis­turbingly preva­lent, as doc­u­mented by a May 2015 report by the United Nations High Com­mis­sioner for Human Rights and the FBI’s annual Hate Crime Sta­tis­tics Act report.  The prob­lem is com­pounded by incon­sis­tent def­i­n­i­tions of hate crime and inad­e­quate hate crime data col­lec­tion efforts, accord­ing to a 2013 ADL/Human Rights First report on hate crimes in the Orga­ni­za­tion for Secu­rity and Coop­er­a­tion in Europe (OSCE) region.

Randy Berry, the State Department’s Spe­cial Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons,announced a num­ber of new Admin­is­tra­tion ini­tia­tives at the con­fer­ence, which fell dur­ing LGBT Pride Month.  He high­lighted exist­ing part­ner­ships and pledged to expand inter­na­tional law enforce­ment train­ing and tech­ni­cal assis­tance, as well as efforts to empower civil soci­ety and LGBT edu­ca­tion and advo­cacy orga­ni­za­tions. The Admin­is­tra­tion will con­tinue to draw on exist­ing exper­tise across the US Gov­ern­ment to enable orga­ni­za­tions and agen­cies abroad to request assis­tance to launch new local and national initiatives.

The White House pro­gram included pan­els focused on the impact of community-based orga­ni­za­tions, the role of law enforce­ment and the judi­ciary, and gov­ern­ment actions and best prac­tices – which was mod­er­ated by ADL Wash­ing­ton Coun­sel Michael Lieber­man.  The meet­ing built on a Decem­ber 2011 Pres­i­den­tial Mem­o­ran­dum on “Inter­na­tional Ini­tia­tives to Advance the Human Rights of Les­bian, Gay, Bisex­ual, and Trans­gen­der Per­sons.” Fed­eral agen­cies – espe­cially USAID, the Jus­tice Depart­ment, and the State Depart­ment – have done a lot of work on the issue.  The State Depart­ment released a report in May 2014 detail­ing its progress on car­ry­ing out the President’s Memorandum.

ADL works to address dis­crim­i­na­tion and vio­lence against LGBT indi­vid­u­als in the United States and abroad, fil­ing ami­cus briefs in Supreme Court cases, con­duct­ing work­shops and train­ing for edu­ca­tors and law enforce­ment offi­cials, and encour­ag­ing the col­lec­tion of hate crime sta­tis­tics that help local and fed­eral law enforce­ment track and address this issue. ADL rep­re­sen­ta­tives also helped craft the sem­i­nal OSCE pub­li­ca­tion, Hate Crime Laws: A Prac­ti­cal Guide, and main­tain rela­tion­ships with many human rights groups to track anti-Semitism, hate crimes, and vio­lence and dis­crim­i­na­tion against LGBT per­sons at home and abroad.  ADL Wash­ing­ton Office Direc­tor Stacy Bur­dett, who also attended the con­fer­ence, leads that work.

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