Bill would strengthen protections against hate crimes.
Press Conference Call Audio Recording:
Washington, DC - Today, on the eve of an expected House vote on the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (LLEHCPA), the leaders of several of the nation's largest civil rights and faith groups held a press conference call to urge swift passage of the bill that would strengthen protection against hate crimes.
The LLEHCPA enhances federal involvement in hate crimes cases where necessary, authorizes the U.S. Justice Department to investigate and prosecute bias-motivated violence against a person based on actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, and expands protections to victims who are singled out because of their gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.
The bill also provides the Justice Department with the ability to aid state and local jurisdictions, either by lending assistance or by taking the lead in investigations and prosecutions of violent crimes motivated by bias. The LLEHCPA creates grants for state and local communities to train law enforcement officers on bias-motivated crimes and combat violent crimes committed by juveniles.
A wide coalition of national civil rights organizations, faith groups, and law enforcement organizations has called for the passage of the LLEHCPA legislation. Leaders from these communities issued the following statements in support of the bill on the call today:
"A tool such as Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act could have made it easier to prosecute those who beat Luis Ramirez to death in Pennsylvania or the man who bludgeoned teenager Angie Zapata to death with a fire extinguisher in Colorado or the pair who robbed, tortured and left to die, a young man named Matthew Shepard. On this call today, we urge swift passage of this important legislation to prevent these unthinkable acts of hatred and intolerance." - Wade Henderson, President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) [Press Contact: Maggie Kao, (202) 466-2735]
"State and local authorities investigate and prosecute the overwhelming majority of hate crime cases. But this essential legislation will provide a necessary backstop - by permitting federal authorities to provide assistance in these hate crime investigations and by allowing federal prosecutions when state and local authorities are unable or unwilling to act." - Michael Lieberman, Washington Counsel for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) [Press Contact: Todd Gutnick, (212) 885-7755]
"People with disabilities, especially those with mental disabilities, are often singled out for bias-motivated violence and harassment, and the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act will provide a critical tool to fight back against this despicable behavior and its impact on our community. We urge Congress to pass this legislation that will encourage more people with disabilities to report these crimes to law enforcement, and show that these acts of violence will not be tolerated." - Andrew Imparato, President and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) [Press Contact: Rebecca Panoff, (202) 508-3783 (V/TTY)]
"Not only does the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crime Prevention Act of 2009 protect civil rights, it also protects free speech and association. This bill will have the strongest protection against the misuse of a person's free speech that Congress has enacted in the federal criminal code." - Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Washington Legislative Office [Press Contact: Linda Paris, (202) 715-0804]
"Seventy-five percent of all Americans regardless of their race, religion or political affiliation support this legislation. They understand that the time to get this legislation to the president's desk is long overdue. Now is the time for Congress to again pass this bill and for President Obama to sign it into law. Ten years after the bill's introduction, local jurisdictions continue to need the additional resources necessary to prosecute the hate violence that spreads fear and panic throughout entire communities. State and local agencies must be given the tools they need to investigate and prosecute bias-motivated crimes." - Joe Solmonese, President of Human Rights Campaign (HRC) [Press Contact: Brad Luna, (202) 216-1514]
"We need to strengthen existing hate crimes laws because hate crimes are such a unique offense they are an attack not just on individuals but an attempt to terrorize and demoralize entire communities. Existing policies are inadequate, as too many African Americans are aware. Even though we make up just over 14 percent of the population, we are the subjects of roughly 60 percent of reported hate crimes. The bill we are about to consider will provide local law enforcement units with much-needed additional resources to help address, and hopefully reduce, these heinous crimes." - Hilary O. Shelton, Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau [Press Contact: Chris Fleming, (202) 463-2940, ext.1021]
"The Latino community is committed to working with all groups to monitor incidents of hate crimes and hate rhetoric, to urge policymakers and the media to cease resorting to bias and bigotry, and to increase tolerance and understanding among all communities." - Janet Murguía, President and CEO of the National Council on La Raza (NCLR) [Press Contact: Marie Watteau, (202) 776-1812]
"As a Jew, I know all too well the history of my people as victims of ethnic hatred, of discrimination, of violence. As an American, I know that overcoming such hatred, discrimination, and violence is difficult - but entirely possible. And it's possible if we take steps like those outlined in the vital legislation we come together to support." - Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism [Press Contact: Kate Bigam, (202) 387-2800]
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