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Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Delivers Remarks on Justice Department Efforts to Combat Unlawful Acts of Hate


Washington, DC
United States

Thank you, Ambassador [Susan] Rice, for bringing us all together. Thanks to the members of this panel. Thanks everyone out here for joining us. A little louder? Okay. People are not shy in this room. That’s excellent. 

I have often said, and I say often, that the Justice Department was founded in 1870 with the first principal purpose of protecting the rights of Black Americans under the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, and in particular, fighting against the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacists who were trying to deprive them of the right to vote.

Now, 152 years later, the task of confronting hate-fueled violence remains central to the mission of the Justice Department.

In one of my very first acts as Attorney General, I directed an expedited review to determine how the Justice Department could improve its efforts to fight against acts of hate that were unlawful, constituted crimes.

While that review was nearing completion, Congress passed and the President signed into law the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act and the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act.

Shortly after that, I directed the Justice Department to enhance our efforts to combat unlawful acts of hate, including:

  • By improving incident reporting,
  • By increasing law enforcement training and coordination at all levels of government,
  • By prioritizing community outreach,
  • And making better use of civil enforcement mechanisms.  

Over the past year and a half, the Justice Department has sharpened its tools to help us prevent, deter, investigate, and prosecute hate crimes.

Earlier this year, we secured the convictions of three men who targeted and killed Ahmaud Arbery just because he was a Black man jogging on a public street.

We successfully prosecuted an individual who, motivated by racist and xenophobic beliefs about the COVID-19 pandemic, targeted and attacked an Asian family at a supermarket in Midland, Texas.

We obtained the conviction of an individual in New York who mailed more than 60 letters to LGBTQ affiliated individuals, organizations and businesses, many of which contained threats to kill, shoot, and bomb the recipients.

And we obtained the conviction of a man in Tennessee for a series of arsons targeting Catholic, Methodist, and Baptist churches in the state.

And these are only a few examples of the Justice Department’s criminal law enforcement efforts against perpetrators of hate crimes.

The Justice Department remains committed to enforcing federal hate crime laws. But we also recognize that prosecutions alone are not enough.

That is why the Justice Department has launched its new United Against Hate program. This initiative brings together community groups, community leaders, and law enforcement at every level to build trust and strengthen coordination to combat unlawful acts of hate. 

The initiative seeks to improve the reporting of hate crimes and hate incidents by working with communities about how to identify and report unlawful acts of hate.

Earlier this year, our U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for Massachusetts, New Jersey, and the Eastern District of Washington completed United Against Hate pilot programs.

And today, I am pleased to announce that this initiative will expand to 16 more U.S. Attorneys’ offices and will launch in all 94 U.S. Attorneys’ offices within the next year.

United Against Hate brings together community-focused resources from across the Justice Department, including from the Civil Rights Division and the FBI, which are both important parts of the United Against Hate initiative. The Community Relations Service and the Office for Victims of Crime are also expanding the resources and support that they offer to communities and individuals targeted [by] hate.

Finally, over the time I have served as Attorney General, many in this audience, who I am looking at today, have played a critical role in helping advance our efforts to combat hate.

You helped to push the passage of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act and Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act. To mark the one-year anniversary of that legislation this past May, the Department released our first grant solicitations under those authorities.

Our law enforcement partners, like the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), have ramped up your anti-hate crime training resources for local police departments.

Many of you here today provided valuable input for the guidance we issued with our partners at the Department of Health and Human Services to raise awareness of hate crimes during the pandemic.

Earlier in my tenure, you underscored the importance of language access in the reporting of hate crimes and hate incidents. As a consequence, then, we hired the Department’s first-ever full-time Language Access Coordinator.

Confronting unlawful acts of hate is complex and difficult work, but we are grateful for your advocacy and your partnership in this work.

As I have said many times before, the Justice Department does not investigate or prosecute people because of their ideology or the views they hold. In our democracy, people are entitled to voice their opinions, to argue, and to debate.

But in our democracy, people are not entitled to commit violent acts or make unlawful violent threats motivated by bias or hate. And the Justice Department will not hesitate to hold accountable people who do so.

All people in this country should be able to live without fear of being attacked or harassed because of where they are from, what they look like, whom they love, how they worship, or what they believe.

The Justice Department will never stop working toward that end. Thank you.

Hate Crimes
Updated September 15, 2022