DC AG Racine leads panel on combating hate

D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine hosted a webinar Wednesday for the community of attorneys general on combating hate and how to better support victims and their families.

The event featured a panel of guests who had been victimized in hate crimes and a discussion among several attorneys general who talked about how they’re dealing with hate.

The panel included Susan Bro, whose daughter Heather Heyer was killed when a white supremacist drove his car through a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017; Rabbi Hazzan Jeffrey Myers, of the Tree Of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, where the congregation was attacked in a mass shooting in 2018 that killed 11 people; Pardeep Kaleka, whose father was killed in an attack on a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin in 2012; and Jeff Binkley whose daughter Maura was killed in 2018 by a violent extremist in a yoga studio in Tallahassee, Florida.

Their discussion was moderated by the Rev. Bill Lamar, pastor of the Metropolitan African Methodist Church in D.C.

The spread of hate online, and what the public should demand of the big tech companies, got plenty of attention.

Bro acknowledged how tough it is for big tech companies to police everything on their platforms.

“We have a responsibility as citizens to educate ourselves and others around us,” she said. “As Einstein said on Facebook recently, don’t believe everything you see.”

Rabbi Myers discussed how important community support was in the shooting’s aftermath. “The city enveloped us,” he said, “with this massive, nonstop hug and uplift.”

He went on to clarify, “When I say the city, it was all peoples, all faiths, all colors, all sexual orientations, all reached out.”

The Fireside Chat section featured D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine speaking with colleagues from around the country, including Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who highlighted the importance of modernizing hate crime laws to define specific conduct and specify all protected groups.

She said Massachusetts updated its hate crimes statute “to define certain conduct and to make sure that we were clarifying the classes of people who were protected.” She said they also included gender and immigrants.

Healey added that they also defined the terms and the elements of the crimes and their penalties “because it was our experience that neither prosecutors nor judges had the sufficient clarity to treat hate-based violence with the seriousness it deserved.”

Healey said they also set stronger penalties, moving many cases from District court to Superior Court, “so from misdemeanor to felony.”

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