HRC Blog

HRC at Senate Hearing on Hate Crimes and Domestic Extremism

This post comes from HRC Law Fellow Jake Reif:

The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee held a hearing entitled “Hate Crimes and the Threat of Domestic Extremism” yesterday afternoon. The hearing, which was chaired by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), focused on the murder of six individuals at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin last month, but also looked at the importance of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act (the Shepard-Byrd Act).  Allison Herwitt, HRC’s Legislative Director, submitted written testimony to be included in the record. 

Deputy Assistant Attorney General Roy Austin testified on the Justice Department’s continued progress in prosecuting bias-motivated crimes and trumpeted the nation’s hate crime statutes, calling them “powerful tools for combating hate and violence, so that all of our citizens can live free of fear from being targeted because of the color of their skin, the religion they practice, or who they love.”

Harpreet Singh Saini, a college student from Oak Creek who lost his mother in the attack, spoke movingly on the impact of tragedy on his community. “An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us,” he said. Saini told the more than 400 people in attendance that he was studying to be a law enforcement officer, so that he could “combat hate, not just against Sikhs, but against all people.”

The other panelists discussed the ways in which intelligence gathering and information sharing can be improved in order to better prevent domestic terrorism and considered whether the Federal Bureau of Investigation should begin collecting statistics on hate crimes against the Sikh community.

It is unfortunate that it takes an event like the one at the Sikh temple last month to remind many in our nation of the devastating impact of hate motivated violence.  At HRC, we do not believe that anyone should be subject to violence based on who they are or what they believe.  We have made great efforts to curb the scourge of hate crimes, but there is obviously more to be done.

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