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Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke Delivers Remarks at the United Against Hate Virtual Forum


Washington, DC
United States

Thank you, Attorney General Garland, for joining us for this important program.

As we are all tragically and painfully aware, the threat from hate-fueled violence remains as serious as ever. A few weeks ago, the FBI released its hate crime statistics for 2022. These statistics show that hate crimes remain at the highest levels in more than a decade.

As in previous years, the recently released data shows that almost 60% of hate crimes targeted victims based on their race, ethnicity or ancestry, with Black people being among those most frequently targeted. The data also show that antisemitic hate crimes rose 25% from last year, with those crimes accounting for over half of all reported religion-based hate crimes. Hate crimes against Muslim Americans – or those perceived to be Muslim – constituted a significant portion of the remainder of religion-based hate crimes. Hate crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity also rose 16% last year.

But we also know that the statistics only tell part of the story, as underreporting remains a challenge. Some state and local law enforcement agencies still do not report data to the FBI, and there are victims who are reluctant to report hate crimes or hate incidents to local law enforcement. We know that complete and accurate data is critical to our ability to prevent and prosecute hate crimes when they occur.

The sad reality is that far too many people in this country remain vulnerable to bias-motivated violence simply because of who they are, what they look like, where they worship, where they come from or who they love.

The Justice Department is working tirelessly to investigate and combat these unlawful acts of hate. From his first days in office, Attorney General Garland has made clear that one of the department’s top priorities is the prosecution and prevention of hate crimes. And at the Civil Rights Division, we take that charge seriously. Since January 2021, the Civil Rights Division has charged more than 80 defendants in more than 100 cases for committing hate crimes. During that time, we have obtained more than 85 convictions. This is work we carry out in partnership with U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, with the FBI and with local law enforcement.

Our prosecutions, sadly, make clear that hate crimes are not from a bygone era but a crisis that continues to tear at the fabric of our nation. Earlier this year, we obtained a guilty verdict against the perpetrator who killed 11 people and critically wounded seven others at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018. I am honored to have Rabbi Hazzan Jeffrey Myers from the Tree of Life with us today to reflect on how the community has come through that tragedy.

This year, we also secured the conviction of the man who killed 23 people and wounded 22 more at the Cielo Vista Walmart in El Paso, Texas, for no reason other than their Hispanic identity and national origin. The killer was recently sentenced to 90 consecutive life terms.

To provide you a sense of the breadth and scope of what hate-fueled violence looks like in our country, I want to highlight some of our cases over the month of October alone.

In Illinois, we are investigating as a potential hate crime the horrific and fatal stabbing of six-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume and serious injuries suffered by his mother, Hanaan Shahin, in Illinois.

In South Carolina, a man pleaded guilty to obstructing justice in the murder of a Black transgender woman, Dime Doe.

In Ohio, a man pleaded guilty to federal charges after throwing two Molotov cocktails at a church, hoping to burn it to the ground because of its plans to host drag show events and the church’s support for the LGBTQI+ community.

In Florida, a man was sentenced for his racially-motivated attack and attempt to use his pickup truck to strike a group of Black men who were surveying land near the location of the 1923 Rosewood Massacre site.

In Indiana, a man was indicted for allegedly leaving voicemails threatening to kill Jewish people at Anti-Defamation League offices in New York, Texas, Colorado and Nevada.

This is what just one month of our work to combat hate across America looks like today.

We will discuss a number of these cases during today’s program. Our prosecutions of hate crimes are vital. Hate crimes are message crimes. Through their violence, the perpetrators of these crimes not only target victims but also seek to instill fear in the communities they target. But our prosecutions are intended to send a louder and more powerful message: that hate crimes will not be tolerated in our democracy today; that perpetrators of hate crimes will be punished and held fully accountable; and that the communities targeted by these crimes are valued and will be safeguarded by the federal government.

But we know that prosecutions alone are not enough to eliminate the crisis of hate root and branch. Prevention and public education are key. Trust between communities, law and enforcement is also necessary. And that is why we are here today. 

In September 2022, at the United We Stand Summit at the White House, Attorney General Garland directed all 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices to host “United Against Hate” programs across the country. This innovative community outreach and engagement program brings law enforcement and communities together to discuss the reporting, impact and prevention of hate crimes and hate incidents.

Through United Against Hate, we have strengthened community resilience to combat hate and positioned the Justice Department to better identify, prosecute and (most importantly) prevent unlawful acts of hate. Today I am pleased to announce that we are releasing a resource that discusses the United Against Hate efforts and highlights how our U.S. Attorneys’ Offices are continuing to work in their local communities to address hate crimes and hate incidents.

I am proud to share that all 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices have activated, hosting more than 200 United Against Hate events that have brought together more than 6000 community members, community leaders and law enforcement officers.

Make no mistake, hate-fueled violence is a stain on our nation’s history. Today’s program is victim-centered, trauma-informed and community-focused. We are elevating the voices of those impacted by hate and ensuring that the lives of those lost to hate-fueled violence are never forgotten. The Charleston Nine. The El Paso 23. The Tree of Life 11. The Buffalo 10. The Club Q Five. The Jacksonville Three. We remain steadfast in honoring the lives of those victimized by hate-fueled violence by vigorously defending civil rights in every way we can. As we carry out this work, we champion transcendental ideals of freedom and equality to dispel the discord of hatred and prejudice.

Being here today gives us space to honor the memories of those who lost their lives and space to affirm that their lives mattered.

Two lives that most certainly mattered were those of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd. Sadly, this year marks 25 years since the tragic murders of both of these men.

In 1998, Matthew Shepard – a 21-year-old gay student at the University of Wyoming – was robbed, tortured, tied to a fence along a country road and left to die by two men who offered him a ride home from a local bar.

That same year, James Byrd Jr – a 49-year-old Black man living in Jasper, Texas – also accepted a ride home from three men. They drove him to the remote edge of town where they beat him severely, tied him by the ankles to the back of a pickup truck and dragged him to his death.

The families of Matthew Shepard and of James Byrd joined forces with a coalition of advocates and civil rights groups who urged Congress to strengthen our federal hate crimes laws. They were successful. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was signed into law and stands as one of our most important tools in the fight against hate crimes. The Justice Department leverages this powerful law to address violent hate crimes and to bring perpetrators to justice.

We will hear from the family of Matthew Shepard in a moment. First, I am honored to be joined by Houston Police Department’s Senior Police Officer Jamie Byrd-Grant.

Officer Byrd-Grant is a 12-year veteran of the Houston Police Department. She is also the youngest daughter of James Byrd Jr. and a long-time racial justice advocate.

At the age of 16, Officer Byrd-Grant and her family were a driving force for passage of the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in Texas, as well as the federal Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Federal Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

She is the director of the James Byrd Jr. Foundation for K.I.D.S. nonprofit organization, and author of Triumph Over Tragedy, her personal story. She is also deeply involved in the fight against antisemitism and hate through partnership with the Houston Coalition Against Hate and the Anti-Defamation League.

I want to acknowledge how special it is to have Officer Byrd-Grant here with us today. I want to thank her for her strength, her courage and for being here to share her personal testimony with the Justice Department and all of our participants.

Civil Rights
Hate Crimes
Updated November 1, 2023