How the Law Complicates Tracking Hate in Oregon

Some hate crimes are so heinous there’s no debate about whether they should be prosecuted. But the law isn’t always so clear-cut for police. Oregon is a good example.

Hassania heard the footsteps one late summer evening in downtown Portland, Ore.

She was on her way home from work. Hassania, a Muslim woman from Morocco, wore a hijab, as she does every day, and bright-colored clothing bejeweled at the wrists. The hem of her kaftan hovered just barely off the ground.

The footsteps grew closer. Then she saw him — an older white man with gray hair and glasses ran at Hassania from behind and then got in her face, blocking her way. He stood just inches from her.

“Too close to my body,” Hassania said.

The man raised his middle finger at her, then spat at her feet.

She gasped and shouted a sarcastic remark about his impoliteness. The man ran off.

As the noise of his footsteps receded, she asked herself one question over and over:

“Why? Why? Just why?” Hassania said. “Maybe because I’m a Muslim, African woman?”

Hassania came to the United States in July to share the work she’s doing teaching Moroccan girls from the countryside about leadership skills and gender equality issues. The image of America she had formed in her mind while studying U.S. history in books and classes 5,700 miles away — an America where racism is a thing of the past, where everyone, regardless of background, is welcome if they’re willing to contribute to society — began to unravel.

Once safely home, she called friends to ask for advice. One told her to take off her hijab. She couldn’t fathom that.

“’No, don’t say that to me,’” she remembered telling the friend. “’Please, this is my identity, this is me. This is not easy to take it off.’”

Another friend advised her to call the Portland Police Bureau. That friend told her to report the incident as a hate crime.

She tried.

Within hours of last month’s horrific attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue, federal prosecutors charged the shooter with multiple hate crimes: obstruction of the exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death and obstruction of religious beliefs resulting in injury to a police officer.

In Kentucky, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called for the death penalty for the man accused of targeting and shooting two African-Americans last week at a grocery store in his home state.

“If these are not hate crimes,” McConnell said, “I don’t know what a hate crime is.”

But the judicial system isn’t always so clear-cut, and people who lash out in hateful ways aren’t always criminals according to the law.

Under Oregon law, a hate crime occurs when a person or group damages property, does something threatening or subjects another person to offensive physical contact “because of the person’s perception of the other’s race, color, religion, sexual orientation, disability or national origin.”

It’s a very specific legal definition, one that police, sheriffs and district attorneys say often falls short of satisfying people who have experienced hateful behavior.

“It is really difficult to provide the solution a community member is looking for and is asking for,” said officer Natasha Haunsperger, who works in the Portland Police Bureau’s community engagement office. “It’s such a major disconnect in what we can do versus perception once you’re a victim of a hate crime.”

That’s because law enforcement officials must have enough probable cause to determine an alleged perpetrator intentionally threatened or assaulted someone because of a victim’s race, color, religion, national origin or sexual orientation. Unless they occur in conjunction with a crime, derogatory statements about a person’s race or religion, while hostile, aren’t unlawful.

In fact, they’re protected by the First Amendment.

“You are allowed to use hurtful, awful, disgusting words; you’re allowed to say that under our Constitution,” said Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel. “You’re not allowed to threaten somebody, put someone in fear of imminent physical violence.”

Hassania called Portland Police a day after she was accosted.

The officer she spoke with wouldn’t take a police report because, Hassania later recalled, he said what had happened to her was not a crime.

If the police arrested everyone in Portland who offended someone, the officer added, police would have to arrest everyone in Portland. Under the law, he explained, there was nothing they could do.

Hassania, who asked to be identified by just her first name to protect her from further abuse, said the officer she spoke with made her feel like an idiot.

“My dream of America became nightmare of America,” she said.

Hassania wasn’t alone when she called the police. Seemab Hussaini, who chairs Oregon’s chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, was with her when she made the call and was appalled at what he overheard.

On Aug. 24, the day after Hassania called the police, CAIR-Oregon publicly denounced the Portland Police Bureau’s response.

“These are statements that marginalize affected communities, remove power or any hope of being recognized for victimhood,” Hussaini said.

That tension between what people — particularly people of color — expect when they call the police for help and what law enforcement officers can legally prosecute under the law plays out time and time again in communities across the Northwest and around the country.

Within many communities of color, skepticism toward law enforcement is rooted in historic precedent. And now, with a spike in reported hate crimes since the election of President Donald Trump and a spate of attacks fueled by hate, there’s more pressure for law enforcement to get it right. If they don’t, critics say, hate festers and the people police have sworn to protect end up feeling even less safe.

Documenting Hate To Address Hate

Hassania’s call to the police would have been handled differently just a few hours south in Eugene, Ore., which has the largest number of documented hate crimes in the state, and where city officials have taken a different approach to hate.

There, she would have had the option to report what happened to her to the city’s Office of Human Rights and Neighborhood Involvement even if the police decided there was no crime to investigate. Information about the incident would then also be collected by the Eugene Police Department and reviewed by city officials and police, who meet quarterly to make sure each complaint about hateful behavior is correctly labeled.

Those results are put into an annual report analyzed by the city’s Human  Rights Commission.

So far, all that additional information and analysis haven’t led to specific policy changes in Eugene. But just keeping track is important, city leaders say.

Hate crimes

Lt. David Natt of the Eugene, Ore. Police Dept. says the city’s approach to documenting hate crimes and bias incidents helps. Photo by Conrad Wilson/OPB

“It allows us to give them something that’s more actionable than showing the empathy of understanding how they feel about something and explaining to them it doesn’t necessarily rise to a criminal level,” said Lt. David Natt, who heads up bias crimes and documentation for the Eugene Police Department.

“We still get the opportunity in the community to recognize that we’ve had this event.”

Eugene residents say that process gives law enforcement a clearer sense of what’s happening in their communities. That’s important because hate and bias crimes tend to be under-reported nationwide.

Eugene’s unique system of documenting hate and bias incidents has a magnifying effect:

The number of hate crimes reported in Oregon nearly doubled from 2015 to 2016 — a jump from 66 to 104. Portland — Oregon’s largest city — had 10 hate crimes reported in 2016, according to data voluntarily reported to the FBI. Eugene had 38.

The numbers in Eugene last year, which include both incidents and actual crimes, are even higher, at 139. According to the most recent data, vandalism replaced intimidation as the most common hate crime charge, and race remains the leading motivating factor. Reports of vandalism involved swastikas; racist, homophobic and transphobic slurs; and white nationalist recruitment material.

The data also shows African-Americans are significantly overrepresented as victims of hate and bias crimes. Of the 31 reported race-related hate crimes, 25 were committed against African-Americans.

“Those reporting mechanisms have helped,” said Eric Richardson, president of the Eugene chapter of the NAACP. “It’s a way for us to see what the problems are.”

By documenting hate, he said, you address hate.

Eugene’s approach casts a wider net because it documents bias incidents on top of hate crimes. Hussaini, with CAIR-Oregon, said that would be helpful in Portland, where only hate crimes — those incidents that appear to meet the legal definition of a hate crime — are tracked.

“Track the culture,” Hussaini said. “Track the culture behind what causes a hate crime to occur. They can be circumvented, stopped if they are found early.”

Portland Considers Another Approach To Hate

Recently, the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) invited officers from Eugene to exchange information about how they document hate. They met with Natt, the Eugene lieutenant who heads the city’s bias unit, and a representative from Eugene’s Human Rights and Neighborhood Involvement division.

Eric Richardson

Eric Richardson, president of the Eugene, Ore., chapter of the NAACP. Photo by Conrad Wilson/OPB

In August, following that meeting, PPB launched a public database of potential bias and hate crime statistics.

But the data doesn’t include incidents such as Hassania’s. Rather, the data only illustrates incidents that officers have deemed a crime, meaning they took the initial step of officially documenting what happened. In launching the new public tool, PPB said it hopes to “increase transparency and encourage the community to report instances of possible bias and hate crimes to the PPB, regardless of the nature or type of incident.”

Portland police say when it comes to documenting more bias incidents, they need help from the community. In fact, the city already has a foundation for a system like the one that exists in Eugene.

Portland Detective Jeff Sharp, who investigates bias crimes, said the bureau is hoping to work with Portland United Against Hate, a partnership of community organizations, neighborhood associations and the city. Portland City Council awarded $40,000 to PUAH in 2017 for a pilot project to collect, track and analyze hate incidents.

Findings from the program’s first year show that hate crimes go unreported in Portland because of an expectation of inaction when a victim reports: People don’t call the police because they don’t think the police will do anything. Organizers also found that the process for reporting hate crimes needs to take into account a victim’s trauma and, above all, avoid exacerbating it.

There’s also the Police Bureau’s Muslim Advisory Council, which is made up of leaders in the Muslim community. Its members meet every month with officers. Those interactions help the community feel heard, said Laila Hajoo, president of the Islamic Social Services of Oregon State, a Portland-based nonprofit.

“A lot of the refugees that come here are terrified to bring up issues with authorities because they are afraid of deportation, or because it’s going to make their life more miserable,” Hajoo said. “If they can confide in us, then we have an opportunity to discuss this at the council” — and police officers can engage.

While the bureau is making strides, it still falls short of a system for tracking incidents such as Hassania’s. And from Hassania’s perspective, the reality is that talking about hate isn’t as powerful as documenting it.

“Now, I felt like, ‘No, I have to protect myself,’” she said.

It took Hassania weeks to process what happened to her. She missed several days of work because she was afraid to go outside. She even attended the Portland Police Bureau’s “WomenStrength” self-defense workshops.

More than a month after the incident, Hassania attended a seminar titled “Islamophobia Workshop: Strategies for Survival” at a mosque in Beaverton, Ore. She was eager to hear other people’s experiences with hate and reflections on why they occurred.

Among the attendees were Destinee Mangum and Walia Mohamed, the two girls who prosecutors say were targeted aboard a MAX train in 2017, just before a white man stabbed three people, killing two. Mohamed wore a hijab at the time of the attack, just as Hassania does.

Hassania stood and faced the two girls. “I want to thank you so much for being here,” she told them.

Then, she retold the events of that late summer evening on her way home from work to those in attendance at the seminar. She turned to the dozen or so people in the room, and posed a question: “Who will protect me if the police didn’t protect me?”

What Hassania wanted, and still wants, is for someone from the city of Portland—anyone—to say that what happened to her matters in the eyes of law enforcement.

This is a slightly edited version of a broadcast report by Erica Cruz Guevarra and Conrad Wilson of Oregon Public Radio. Wilson is a 2018 John Jay Rural Justice Reporting Fellow. For the complete broadcast, please click here.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Hate Criminals Can Be Rehabbed, Advocates Say

Getting domestic extremists to abandon their hate-filled ways is labor-intensive but possible, experts say. The Trump administration ended a federal program dealing with domestic terrorism.

Before killing 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue, gunman Robert Bowers spewed venomous bigotry, hatred and conspiracies online against Jews and immigrants. The attack follows a spike in anti-Semitic incidents, concerns about the rise in domestic extremism, and calls for politicians to rethink their anti-immigrant rhetoric. NPR explored whether any programs are effective in getting violent far right extremists to cast aside racist beliefs and abandon hate-filled ways. It is an under-studied and neglected area. “We haven’t wanted to acknowledge that we have a problem with violent right wing extremism in this kind of domestic terrorism,” says sociologist Pete Simi of Chapman University, who has researched the issue for two decades. “White supremacy is really a problem throughout the United States,” he says. “It doesn’t know any geographic boundaries. It’s not isolated to either urban or rural or suburban — it cuts across all.”

The Trump administration ended funding that targeted domestic extremism and has focused on threats from Islamist extremists and undocumented immigrants. Research shows that adherence to white supremacist beliefs can be addictive. Some who try to leave can “relapse.” Can home-grown right wing violent extremists be rehabilitated and reenter civil society? “The answer to that question is absolutely ‘yes,'” Simi says. They may need schooling or employment training or “maybe they have some housing needs, maybe they have some unmet mental health needs,” such as past trauma or substance use problems, he says. The “wrap-around services” model is labor intensive, expensive and hard to coordinate. Tony McAleer is a former member of the White Aryan Resistance (WAR) and other hate groups who renounced bigotry and helped co-found the nonprofit Life After Hate, one of a handful of groups working to help right wing extremists find an off-ramp. It lost a $400,000 Obama-era grant when the Trump administration changed focus.

from https://thecrimereport.org

U.S. Law Enforcement Fails to Deal With White Nationalists

Some 71 percent of extremist-related fatalities in the U.S. between 2008 and 2017 were committed by the far right or white-supremacist movements. Islamic extremists were responsible for 26 percent

Law enforcement agencies in the U.S. failed to see the threat of white nationalism, and now they don’t know how to stop it, says the New York Times Magazine. White supremacists and other far-right extremists have killed more people since Sept. 11, 2001, than any other category of domestic extremist. Some 71 percent of extremist-related fatalities in the U.S. between 2008 and 2017 were committed by the far right or white-supremacist movements. Islamic extremists were responsible for 26 percent. The University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database says terror-related incidents have more than tripled in the U.S. since 2013, and the number of those killed quadrupled to 95 last year. The problem isn’t “foreign-born” terrorists that the Trump administration has cited to drive its anti-immigration agenda. The nonpartisan Stimson Center says that between 2002 and 2017, the U.S. spent $2.8 trillion — 16 percent of the federal budget — on counterterrorism. Terrorist attacks by Muslim extremists killed 100 people in the U.S. during that time. Between 2008 and 2017, domestic extremists killed 387.

“We’re actually seeing all the same phenomena of what was happening with groups like ISIS, same tactics, but no one talks about it because it’s far-right extremism,” says P. W. Singer of the New America think tank. Singer and other analysts met with Trump administration officials about building a counterterrorism strategy that encompassed a wider range of threats. “They only wanted to talk about Muslim extremism,” he says. In an atmosphere of apparent indifference of law enforcement, a virulent, and violent, far-right movement has grown and metastasized. The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University calls out the Justice Department for its “blind spot” on domestic terrorism and hate crimes. Some 88 percent of agencies that provide data to the FBI reported no hate crimes in 2016. “Simply because hate crimes are not reported does not mean they are not happening,” says Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Are Hate Crimes Terrorism?

No, argues the founding director of the John Jay College Center on Terrorism. The FBI definition of terrorism is already “slippery,” and stretching the definition further might threaten  civil liberties, he writes.

Last weekend’s attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh was horrendous as well as startling, in large part because most observers thought antisemitism was on the wane in America.  Jews have enjoyed a large measure of success and acceptance here, especially in comparison with the fierce antisemitism that reigned in Europe for centuries, culminating in the Holocaust, and which thrives today in the Middle East.

A tragedy like the bombing of the synagogue, however, also sadly reminds us of the many acts of violence in this country that are racist in character.  No group is potentially free from racially motivated violence, and African Americans especially have long been familiar with such violence.

By my recent count, between 1991 and 2016 there were 45 acts of arson, bombings, mass murder, hate crimes, and other violence committed against Black churches. In 2013, the most recent year for which  federal data  is available, the FBI identified 3,563 victims of racially motivated hate crimes. Black victims constituted 66 percent of the total.

There are many relevant questions to ask about hate crimes.  One is whether their nomenclature within the criminal justice system should be escalated so that such crimes are considered terrorism.  There’s an argument to be made for such an escalation.  The target is civilians; the violence is carried out by nonstate actors, indeed usually by individuals; the act itself is meant to instill fear and dread beyond the event itself; and media coverage amplifies the effects of the violence itself.

The one missing criterion in this list is that hate crimes are not political in the way that idea serves as one of the central meanings of terrorism, as opposed to all other forms of violence.

What we mean by “political,” of course, can be tricky. For Aristotle, politics related to the structure, organization, or administration of the state.  Most now would extend those ideas to the more general exercise of power, as well as the institutions and arenas in which such struggles occur.

Those engaged in terrorism, as an asymmetrical form of violence, generally seek to redress what they experience as a radical imbalance of power.  Their military inadequacies are compensated by a willingness to attack “soft” targets of innocent civilians.  That is the point.

Terrorist violence in fact by definition has a political point, that is, a specific political objective or set of political objectives.

The violence is not random.  A Palestinian may well hate Jews in general and as a people, or may not, but will bomb a busload of Israelis primarily to alter the fundamental power relations in the land.  Osama bin Laden attacked America on 9/11 to drive us out of the Middle East, among other objectives.

The Unabomber killed selected academic targets because he sought to awaken Americans to what he felt were the deadly, and apocalyptic, dangers of technology.  And so on.

Hate crimes don’t really fit into that larger sense of political objectives.  They stem from irrational hatreds and often flow from very disturbed, even psychotic, minds.  Often the motivation is parochial and sometimes personal.

Hate crimes are heinous, deeply offensive, and spiritually objectionable, but they seem not to fit into a strict definition of terrorism.

So what? If hate crimes and terrorism are like two overlapping circles that still leave a substantial empty space, won’t we mobilize our resources better against such vile acts by treating them as terrorism?

Here I would strongly disagree.

Since 9/11, America has developed a vast and, I would argue, rather terrifyingly large counter-terrorism infrastructure.  Our wars in the Middle East alone—fought to deal with terrorism–have cost hundreds of thousands of lives, created millions of refugees, and cost our economy between two and three trillion dollars; and we are more, rather than less, vulnerable to terrorism.

We have militarized society in the process with profound cultural, political, and spiritual meanings.  Police officers now often look more like soldiers than your friendly cop on the beat.  The eavesdropping ability of the FBI, the NSA, the CIA, and probably local police now exceed anything that was even imaginable before 9/11.  The dangers to our civil rights are real and tangible.

They do not need enhancement.

There is another issue to consider.  The FBI works with a very bad, even quirky, definition of terrorism that includes within it a phrase that makes destruction of property with a political motivation an act of terrorism.

Charles Strozier

Charles Strozier. Photo by Donnelly Marks

That means if someone—and it could include myself—were involved in a demonstration against global warming and in a momentary fit of frustration threw a brick through a McDonald’s window, he or she—I, in the example–could be arrested and tried for carrying out, not a criminal act of vandalism, but an act of terror.

There are unforeseen consequences, in other words, in escalating the definition of what we consider terrorism. The FBI definition, especially, is already inadequate, and slippery. We don’t need the categories of violence which fall under its jurisdiction indiscriminately extended.

Charles Strozier is professor of history at John Jay College and founding director, Emeritus, of the Center on Terrorism at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Today’s Hate Crime Perps See Themselves as Heroes

Researchers say crimes like the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting reflect a change in which more hate criminals believe they are out to “save the white race.”

A middle-aged Kansas man yells, “Get out of my country!” and shoots dead an Indian-born immigrant. A New York man, convinced the white race is being destroyed by interracial marriage, finds an African-American homeless man and stabs him to death. In Pittsburgh, a man entered a synagogue with an AR-15 rifle, murdered 11 people, and said, “They’re committing genocide to my people. I just want to kill Jews.” These killings, the fear, and the men radicalized by it reflect what experts describe as the ­evolution of U.S. hate crime, reports the Washington Post. Researchers have charted how hate crimes, which have been rising overall, have gone from sadistic quests to inflict pain on members of minority groups to violence used as an angry defense against ­social and demographic changes.

The perpetrators of this share of hate crimes are largely white men who hold the belief, exacerbated by rhetoric in politics and media, that they are protecting their culture, race and an endangered way of life that has historically placed them at the top. Some belong to white-supremacist groups. In their version of the story, these men are not the villains, but the heroes. “White-supremacist ideology begins with this acceptance that there is this existential threat against the white race, and this gives people license to rationalize doing anything if it will protect or save the white race,” said Mark Pitcavage of the Anti-Defamation League. “And this is one of the factors that leads to a lot of violence.” In recent decades, a collision of social forces appears to have reshuffled the balance of hate crimes, according to Jack Levin of Northeastern University and others. The shift began after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which “changed everything,” Levin said. The prevalence of defensive hate attacks connected to threatening events began to increase.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Policing of Online Rants Won’t Always Deter Violence, say Experts

Perpetrators of recent hate crimes and mass shootings have made no secret on social media of their beliefs, but “everyone spouting their mouth doesn’t go and shoot up a synagogue,” said David Chipman, a retired federal agent.

The perpetrators of mass shootings often provide a treasure trove of insight into their violent tendencies, filling social media posts with rants about minorities, relationships gone bad or paranoid delusions about perceived slights. But, the Associated Press reports, the massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue, the pipe bombing attempts from last week and the Florida high school shooting this year have underscored the dilemma of law enforcement around the country in assessing the risk of people making online rants at a time when social media have become so ubiquitous.

A number of factors complicate social-media monitoring as an effective prevention strategy. The information is not always seen by law enforcement until after the violence is carried out. Rants and hate speech rarely factor into whether someone passes a background check to buy guns. And police are mindful of the fact that the First Amendment protects Americans’ right to express even speech that many in society find abhorrent — and have to make often-subjective decisions about what crosses the line. “We can go out on Twitter and there are loads of people saying insane stuff, but how do you know which is the one person? It’s always easy after the fact, to go: ‘That was clear.’ But clearly everyone spouting their mouth doesn’t go and shoot up a synagogue,” said David Chipman, a retired agent of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and now senior policy adviser for the Giffords Center.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Feds Seek Death Penalty in Synagogue Killings

Robert Gregory Bowers opened fire with an AR-15 rifle and three handguns at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday, killing eight men and three women before a tactical police team tracked him down and shot him. Bowers owned all of the guns legally and had a license to carry them. He apparently posted an anti-Semitic message on a social media account a few minutes before he opened fire.

Robert Gregory Bowers opened fire with an AR-15 rifle and three handguns at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday, killing eight men and three women before a tactical police team tracked him down and shot him, the Associated Press reports. Bowers owned all of the guns legally and had a license to carry them. He apparently posted an anti-Semitic message on a social media account a few minutes before he opened fire. He expressed hatred of Jews during the rampage and later told police that “I just want to kill Jews” and that “all these Jews need to die,” authorities said. The Anti-Defamation League called it the deadliest U.S. attack on Jews. Six people were injured, including four police officers.

It isn’t clear whether Bowers, who underwent surgery, has an attorney. He is a long-haul trucker who worked for himself, said U.S. Attorney Scott Brady. He had no apparent criminal record, and it appears he acted alone. Bowers was charged with criminal homicide, aggravated assault and ethnic intimidation. He was also charged in a 29-count federal criminal complaint that included counts of obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death — a federal hate crime — and using a firearm to commit murder. Federal prosecutors intend to pursue the death penalty. Of the six survivors, four remained in the hospital Sunday night, and two — including a 40-year-old officer — were in critical condition. Barry Werber found himself hiding in a storage closet after Bowers tore through the synagogue. “I don’t know why he thinks the Jews are responsible for all the ills in the world, but he’s not the first and he won’t be the last,” said Werber, 76. “Unfortunately, that’s our burden to bear. It breaks my heart.” Of the dead, the youngest was 54, the oldest 97. The toll included professors, dentists and physicians.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Anti-Semitism Was Rising Before Pittsburgh Shooting

Jews make up about 2 percent of the U.S. population, but in annual FBI data they repeatedly account for more than half of the Americans targeted by hate crimes committed due to religious bias.

The shooting rampage that killed 11 people at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue is an extreme example of anti-Semitism that is common in the U.S., the Associated Press reports. Year after year, decade after decade, anti-Semitism proves to be among the most entrenched and pervasive forms of hatred and bigotry in the U.S. Examples: Swastikas scrawled into Jewish students’ notebooks. Headstones toppled and desecrated at Jewish cemeteries. Jews falsely blamed for challenges facing the nation. Jews make up about 2 percent of the U.S. population, but in annual FBI data they repeatedly account for more than half of the Americans targeted by hate crimes committed due to religious bias. The Anti-Defamation League identified 1,986 anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. in 2017, up from 1,267 in 2016, and also reported a major increase in anti-Semitic online harassment.

Anti-Semitism surfaces often in research conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks various U.S. hate groups, including neo-Nazis, white nationalists, and skinheads. “They’re all anti-Semites — that’s the tie that binds them,” said Heidi Beirich of the center’s Intelligence Project. “They believe Jews are pulling the strings behind bad things happening in this country.” Of the thousands of anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. in recent decades, only a handful were deadly. Most recently, in June a gunman with-Semitic writings in his car killed a security guard while trying to enter the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and in 2014. Frazier Glenn Miller Jr. fatally shot a 69-year-old man and his 14-year-old grandson at a Jewish community center in suburban Kansas City, then killed a woman at a nearby retirement center.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Four CA White Supremacists Charged With Rally Violence

Members of the white supremacist Rise Above Movement face federal charges of punching counter-protesters and a journalist at rallies.

Four Southern California men, allegedly part of an extremist white supremacist group, have been charged by federal prosecutors with committing violent attacks on counter-protesters, journalists and a police officer at political rallies across the state, NPR reports. Robert Rundo, 28 was taken into custody on Sunday at the Los Angeles International Airport after fleeing to Central America. Robert Boman, 25, and Tyler Laube, 22, were arrested Wednesday. Authorities are searching for Aaron Eason, 38. The criminal complaint alleges the four are part of the white supremacist Rise Above Movement (RAM).

RAM subscribes to a virulently racist, anti-Semitic ideology and trains its members in combat. The group “represents itself publicly as a combat-ready, militant group of a new nationalist white supremacy/identity movement,” the complaint says. Videos recorded by journalists, bystanders and surveillance cameras, as well as internet posts from the group’s members and private social media communications between them, helped the Department of Justice build its case. At a “Make America Great Again” rally in March, the DOJ said, RAM members attacked two journalists and counter-protesters. Video footage shows Laube punched one journalist three times in the face after the reporter was jostled by other rally attendees and stumbled backwards. At an April rally in Berkeley , Rundo, Boman and Eason assaulted people. Videos show group members with taped hands — like boxers — punching counter-protesters. In one attack, a RAM member held down a counter-protester while another landed punches. Rundo was arrested for punching a “defenseless person” and a police officer. “Total Aryan victory,” a RAM member texted another member the next day. Another four RAM members were arrested this month on conspiracy to riot charges for attacking counter-protesters during last year’s Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, Va.

from https://thecrimereport.org

20 Years After Shepard’s Death, Hate Crimes Still a Problem

Matthew Shepard was brutally beaten for being gay in 1998 in Wyoming. Anti-gay or anti-LGBT attacks were the most frequent types of hate crimes last year in several big cities.

Two decades after the 1998 death of Matthew Shepard — who was brutally beaten for being gay in one of the most heinous hate crimes in American history — some progress has occurred toward LGBTQ equality, but obstacles remain, advocates say. The 21-year-old college student was abducted on Oct. 7, 1998 and driven to a remote area east of Laramie, Wy., where he was tied to a fence, beaten with the butt of a pistol and left to die. Almost 18 hours later, he was found by a bicyclist who at first mistook him for a scarecrow. The case set off a wave of protests and activism that led to the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which expanded federal hate crime laws to include attacks motivated by a victim’s gender or sexual orientation, the New York Daily News reports. His attackers, who pretended to be gay to lure Shepard, will spend the rest of their lives behind bars.

Since Shepard’s death, his friends and family have honored his legacy by fighting to enact anti-hate crime legislation and protect minority populations through the Matthew Shepard Foundation. While significant strides have been made for the LGBT population over two decades, a tremendous amount of work remains to be done, said the foundation’s Jason Marsden. Employers in many states are legally protected to fire employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Cyberbullying requires fresh thinking about how to protect minority populations, he said. Reported hate crimes, which rose 12 percent in the 10 largest U.S. cities in 2017, remain a cause for concern. The Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, says anti-gay or anti-LGBT attacks accounted for the most frequent types of hate crimes last year in Los Angeles, Dallas, Seattle, Washington, D.C., and Detroit.

from https://thecrimereport.org