United States Attorney Ronald C. Gathe, Jr. announced the Middle District of Louisiana’s completion of its first “United Against Hate” program. The District was selected as one of the first to pilot the national phasing of this initiative, which is a series of programs designed to help community leaders and the community-at-large to have a better understanding of hate crimes and how to report them to law enforcement. One of the many goals of the United Against Hate Campaign is to proactively engage with members of the community to build trust and increase the likelihood that community members will report acts of hate when they occur.
In May of 2021, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced steps towards the Department of Justice’s enhanced efforts to combat and confront hate crimes. He stated, “Hate crimes and other bias-related incidents instill fear across entire communities and undermine the principles upon which our democracy stands. 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, or how they worship.”
On December 7, 2022, Mr. Gathe, along with members of his office and law enforcement partners who investigate hate crimes, hosted a presentation called “United Against Hate: Identifying, Reporting and Preventing Acts of Hate” at Iglesia Aposento Alto in the Gardere neighborhood of Baton Rouge. Throughout the presentation, members of the Gardere community were provided with informational tools for identifying hate crimes and incidents, instructed on how to prevent and respond to hate crimes and incidents, and introduced to law enforcement professionals to whom they can direct questions and report hate crimes and hate incidents.
U.S. Attorney Gathe stated, “It is a privilege to have been selected by the Department of Justice to participate in the United Against Hate program. Through the United Against Hate program we have the opportunity to collaborate with members of the community to effect positive change, while earning their trust. I must thank our local and federal partners for making our first United Against Hate program a success.”
Through candid conversation, hypothetical examples, and information on defining hate crimes and hate incidents, the United Against Hate program promotes interaction and offers engagement with law enforcement to communities that have unfortunately been subject to discriminatory acts. Program topics include defining hate crimes versus hate incidents; the importance of reporting unlawful acts of hate no matter whether a crime occurred; providing options for responding to hate incidents when situations do not constitute a federal or state crime; and the federal support offered by DOJ as well as state, local, and community resources. The ultimate objective of the program is to foster collaboration in hate crime prevention so that participants leave with a renewed trust that their allegations will be taken seriously, thus increasing the likelihood of reporting hate crimes and incidents.
The role of the numerous U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the country is to be the nationwide leader in violent crime reduction, including efforts to combat hate crimes. Mr. Gathe assured participants that although every incident may not rise to the level of a prosecutable hate crime, reporting hate crimes and hate incidents allows him and his office to connect incidents across the region and the nation. This interaction also strengthens our alliance with the most targeted communities and enables us to prosecute incidents that do rise to the level of a hate crime. The next United Against Hate program will take place on January 18, 2023.