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DOJ Holds Local Hate Crime Forum

THE TENNESSEE TRIBUNE — It’s been six months since the racially-motivated desecration of Walnut Grove Missionary Baptist Church, another incident in a growing trend of such crimes over the past few years.

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By Ashley Benkarski

MURFREESBORO, TN — It’s been six months since the racially-motivated desecration of Walnut Grove Missionary Baptist Church, another incident in a growing trend of such crimes over the past few years.

This isn’t the first time a place of worship has been attacked here—the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro was the target of a hate crime in August 2010, an act that garnered national attention and was featured on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” It was vandalized again in 2017. 

To address the community’s concerns over safety in places of worship, the Community Action Committee of Rutherford County and the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service hosted a forum Mar. 5 at Middle Tennessee State University’s Tucker Theater that featured attorneys, federal, state and local law enforcement officials and local religious organizations. Attendees were given the opportunity to ask questions between panels to encourage open dialogue between congregations and the law enforcement community. 

“No threat should be taken lightly,” Frank Haera, ATF supervisor, said. He added that congregations should be made aware and plans put in place for safe and effective emergency management in the event of a violent act. Law enforcement speakers stressed the importance of cameras and good lighting as deterrents as well as helping identify perpetrators.

The forum is one part of the CRS initiative to protect places of worship through educating the community about hate crimes and providing guidance for safety in the event of violence, such as bomb threats, arson or an active shooter situation. CRS also “works with communities in conflict to help rebuild relationships, facilitate mutual understanding, and encourage the development of local solutions.” It was established by Title X of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its mandate expanded in 2009 via the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

A hate crime is defined by the FBI as “a criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole in or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity,” with statutes varying by state. In Tennessee, a crime has to satisfy one of two requirements before it can be classified as a hate crime: 1) the act violated the civil rights of another via intimidation or coercion and 2) the act was committed against a place of worship. Hate crimes statutes are applied as enhancements to other offenses, such as vandalism, if the crime was motivated by bias against the victim. Victims are allowed input on the offender’s sentence—houses of worship are known to ask for hate crime charges to be dropped in an act of forgiveness—but the decision is ultimately up to the judge. 

The existence of such hatred is a sad reality. “We are living in a strange time,” said ICM spokesperson Dr. Saleh Sbenaty, adding that “the political climate is not helping to heal the wounds” of the divided nation. “We are all God’s children,” said Rev. Richard Sibert of Walnut Grove.

The TBI’s 2017 report on hate crimes notes that anti-black bias was the motivation for the majority of crimes against persons and property, with crimes against persons being the most reported bias-motivated offenses. Intimidation, simple assault and aggravated assault were the most reported incidents against persons, with aggravated assault incidents reported at 38 in 2017, up from 19 the previous year. Destruction/damage/vandalism have been the leading reported crimes against property for the last 3 years; however, the number of incidents under this category has decreased 13.2 percent from 2016-2017. 

If you or your congregation receive a threat, report it immediately by calling 911. For more information on hate crime statistics across the state, visit https://crimeinsight.tbi.tn.gov.

This article originally appeared in The Tennessee Tribune

Community

Public Policy Inst. of California Releases Data on Hate Crimes

Hate crimes against minorities have increased statewide over the last decade with a spike in violent crimes between 2020 and 2022, states a Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) report. The recent increase in violent hate crimes is backed by data revealing that victims were targeted based on personal characteristics, including race, ethnicity, and gender. Those violent hate crimes disproportionately affected Black, Latino, and Asian individuals.

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By California Black Media

Hate crimes against minorities have increased statewide over the last decade with a spike in violent crimes between 2020 and 2022, states a Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) report.

The recent increase in violent hate crimes is backed by data revealing that victims were targeted based on personal characteristics, including race, ethnicity, and gender. Those violent hate crimes disproportionately affected Black, Latino, and Asian individuals. Incidents of violent hate crimes including assault grew by 791. The number of property-related hate crimes, including vandalism, increased by 314 incidents. In all the incidents reported, 25% of the hate crimes included the use of weapons including knives, handguns, and clubs.

The report stated that violent hate crimes remain underreported. The California Department of Justice is working on plans to invest more money in facilitating the reporting of hate crimes and supporting communities affected most by these incidents.

According to the report between 2019 and 2022, hate crimes targeting Black people tripled, while incidents against Latinos doubled, and attacks against Asians more than tripled in recent years.

“These increases are overwhelmingly driven by violent rather than property crimes,” the report stated.

In 2022, approximately 75% of all reported hate crimes included violent attacks against Black, Latino, or Asian people.

The state has since passed bills to address current and emerging issues related to hate crimes. The Legislature passed AB 485 in 2020, requiring local law enforcement agencies to post monthly updates of hate crimes online. Legislators passed AB 449 in 2023, a law that requires local law enforcement agencies to report suspected hate crimes and provide information that helps report hate crimes to the state attorney general.

Gov. Gavin Newsom launched the “CA vs Hate” campaign, an educational awareness campaign that includes a hotline and online resources for reporting hate crimes. The campaign also provided funds to community-based organizations supporting victims of hate crimes.

“This potential change in reporting behavior, along with increased media attention to the problem, may be partially responsible for the recent uptick in the number of incidents we report on here,” the report stated.

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Commentary

Opinion: Will Verdicts Help Black Voters See the Truth?

The news of Trump’s historic 34 guilty verdicts are about a week old. Has it sunk in that the man who insists on being the Republican nominee for president is the former president known officially as CFDT34? If the name sounds like a dangerous radioactive isotope, it is — to our democracy.

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CFDT34 is my coinage of a new acronym that we all should adopt. It’s shorthand for “Convicted Felon Donald Trump,” with 34 being the number of criminal counts of guilt.
CFDT34 is my coinage of a new acronym that we all should adopt. It’s shorthand for “Convicted Felon Donald Trump,” with 34 being the number of criminal counts of guilt.

By Emil Guillermo

The news of Trump’s historic 34 guilty verdicts are about a week old.

Has it sunk in that the man who insists on being the Republican nominee for president is the former president known officially as CFDT34?  If the name sounds like a dangerous radioactive isotope, it is — to our democracy.

CFDT34 is my coinage of a new acronym that we all should adopt. It’s shorthand for “Convicted Felon Donald Trump,” with 34 being the number of criminal counts of guilt.

We need to say CFDT34 aloud as a constant reminder. Too many Americans are in denial. Or just lying.

Especially, CFDT34 himself.

Trump insists it’s all a “fascist” witch hunt, but the verdicts were based on an avalanche of evidence. The defense failed to refute the statements of the National Enquirer’s David Pecker who admitted his role in the Trump campaign to catch, then kill, stories that threatened Trump’s candidacy.

The defense didn’t even attempt to explain Hope Hicks, an ally who delivered the damning testimony that Trump knew about the arrangement to pay off Daniels. Hicks was in tears telling the truth. The defense never countered.

And then there were the checks and invoices and ledger entries, that spelled out the whole scheme. The payments were lies, called “lawyer fees” but they really were reimbursements to attorney Michael Cohen who had used his own money to pay off Daniels.

Minor stuff? Not when done with the intent to violate election law. The payoff was intended to influence the election and it became an illegal campaign contribution as well.

And the hero is New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg, the African American man who led the prosecution. Bragg got justice for all voters denied the truth in 2016.

Contrast Bragg with Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), and Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla). the key African Americans lying for CFDT34.

Scott and Donalds lack the courage to honor the rule of law. Rigged case, they say.  Never should have been prosecuted. Where was the crime?

All of it baloney.

Prior to the historic verdicts, there was some historic polling.

Black voters were seen as abandoning Democrats, with Biden scoring just 70% of the vote. Four years ago, Biden was at 81%.

CNN called the pre-verdict polling the best results for the GOP among Black voters since Nixon.

The age breakdown is more telling. Black voters aged 50 and up were about 85% for Biden. Those who recalled civil rights battles were holding steady for Democrats.

Among Black voters under age 50, a new divide was revealed.  A reported average of polls showed young Blacks were 27% for Trump, with Biden at 64%.

Nearly a third of young Blacks were for Trump prior to the verdicts. But what would young Blacks think now? Would they back a person like Trump, a man who comes with racist baggage like the Central Park 5 saga, and is now a convicted felon?

I haven’t seen new data yet. But with Biden and Harris stepping up their attention on the Black community, talking about economics and pocketbook issues, I’d expect a turnaround when young Blacks hear the lies and the overall hypocrisy among the GOP.

About the Author

Emil Guillermo, an award-winning journalist, and commentator has covered race and politics in Hawaii, California, and Washington, DC. He has worked in newspapers, TV and on radio was host of NPR’s “All Things Considered.”

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Activism

Oakland Post: Week of June 5 – 11, 2024

The printed Weekly Edition of the Oakland Post: Week of June 5 – 11, 2024

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