Senator Mazie Hirono Urges Attorney General to Create a Hate Crimes Task Force
Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) are calling for the creation of an interagency task force to address the tragic increase in hate crimes that has stricken the United States. The recent outburst of violent racism and domestic terrorist activity by white supremacist organizations and individuals in Charlottesville, Virginia, has made the senators’ call for action even more urgent.
In a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Senators Hirono and Cantwell wrote: “President Trump’s reluctance to quickly and directly condemn the hate, bigotry, and racism of the white supremacists and members of the Ku Klux Klan that gathered in Charlottesville was deeply alarming to us and to millions of Americans. In light of the horrific attack and hatred demonstrated in Charlottesville, we urge you to act quickly to address the alarming rise of hate in our country. We are writing to urge you to create a U.S. Department of Justice interagency task force to combat hate-based incidents and violence. As you know, there has been an alarming rise in hate violence and threats against religious and racial minorities and immigrants across the United States.”
In April, Senator Hirono joined a similar group of her colleagues to send a letter to President Trump asking for the task force; to this day, the letter has yet to be directly answered by the Administration. Although the Department of Justice has created a subcommittee focused on hate crimes, the subcommittee lacks sufficient power to effectively address the rise of hate crimes as its scope has never been defined.
The letter notes that hate crime incidents have increased from 5,479 in 2014 to 5,850 in 2015, a rise of seven percent, and expresses concerns about the Administration’s recent actions to decrease funding for efforts to stop white extremism and eliminate funding for efforts dedicated to de-radicalizing neo-Nazis. The Southern Poverty Law Center found that the number of hate groups operating in the U.S. rose to 917 in 2016, an increase of 25 from 2015. In particular, anti-Muslim hate groups almost tripled in 2016.
“With activity involving white extremist and hate groups on the rise in our country, now is not the time to shift our resources away from funding efforts to combat these hateful organizations that threaten to undermine our democracy,” the letter stated.
In addition to the formation of the task force, the Senators’ letter urged the Attorney General to devote more resources from his department to supporting states and local communities in addressing the root causes of hate through education, community development, and cross-cultural exchanges.
Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Mark Warner (D-Va.) also joined the letter.