Following Events in Charlottesville, Cantwell and 11 Senators Renew Call for Federal Response to Hate Crimes
In April, Cantwell and a group of senators urged Administration to create an inter-agency task force to combat rise in hate crimes; President has failed to even respond to the letter
Senators: Administration has failed to take meaningful action, instead decreasing funding to fight white extremism
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), joined by 11 of her Senate colleagues, sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions urging him to create an inter-agency task force to halt and reverse the tragic increase in hate crimes that has stricken the United States. The senators’ call for action is made all the more urgent by the recent outburst of violent racism and domestic terrorist activity by white supremacist organizations and individuals in Charlottesville, Virginia.
In April, Senator Cantwell led a similar group of her colleagues to send a letter to President Trump asking for the task force. The letter has not been answered by the Administration. The Department of Justice has created a subcommittee on hate crimes in response to the April letter, but that subcommittee’s scope has never been defined and lacks the power sufficient to address the rise of hate crime in the United States.
The letter notes that hate crime incidents had increased from 5,479 in 2014 to 5,850 in 2015, an rise of seven percent. 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.
“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 at Charlottesville was deeply alarming to us and to millions of Americans,” wrote the senators. “In light of the horrific attack and hatred demonstrated this weekend in Charlottesville, we urge you to act quickly to address the alarming rise of hate in our country.”
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 joining Cantwell in signing the letter are: Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Edward Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Mark Warner (D-VA).
A full copy of the letter can be found here and below.
The Honorable Jeff Sessions
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530
Dear Attorney General Sessions:
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. Most recently, Americans witnessed the horrific hate-based rally and domestic terror attack in Charlottesville, Virginia where white supremacist hatred led to one fatality and injured many others. 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 at Charlottesville was deeply alarming to us and to millions of Americans.
In April, a letter was sent to President Donald Trump calling for the creation of a Presidential Task Force on preventing and combating hate violence. Disturbingly, President Trump has yet to respond to this letter as of this date. We understand that on April 5, 2017, you announced the creation of a subcommittee, part of the Department of Justice’s Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety that will “develop a plan to appropriately address hate crimes.” While this is a positive development, we are writing to strongly urge you to create a full task force to combat hate based incidents and violence. To underscore the urgency of this issue, the Federal Bureau of Investigation released its most current data in November 2016 and found that hate crime incidents had increased from 5,479 in 2014 to 5,850 in 2015, an increase of seven percent.
In addition to a U.S. Department of Justice interagency task force to combat hate based incidents and violence, we also urge you to devote departmental resources to support states and local communities in addressing the root causes of hate through education, community development, and cross-cultural exchanges. In recent weeks, the Administration has in fact taken steps to decrease funding for efforts to stop white extremism, as evidenced by the Department of Homeland Security pulling funding for Life After Hate, a group dedicated to de-radicalizing neo-Nazis and stopping white extremism. 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.
In light of the horrific attack and hatred demonstrated this weekend in Charlottesville, we urge you to act quickly to address the alarming rise of hate in our country. We look forward to your timely response.
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