MISSOULA — The U.S. Attorney’s Office held its second United Against Hate event today in Missoula with a meeting of federal and local law enforcement representatives and members of the LGBTQI+ community, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said.
United Against Hate is an initiative launched by the Department of Justice focused on improving the prevention of hate crimes and hate incidents by building relationships at the local level. Through this initiative, the Justice Department seeks to create and strengthen partnerships among law enforcement, community leaders and residents.
“Our United Against Hate Initiative is a reflection of the United States Department of Justice’s priority to bring people together to discuss how we can work collaboratively to fight hate crimes and prevent violence. It is timely and appropriate to hold this meeting during Missoula PRIDE’s celebrations so we can hear directly from the LGBTQI+ community and people of Missoula. No one should be violently targeted because of their gender identity or who they love and if they are, our office will not hesitate to hold them accountable. Earlier this week, a Basin man was sentenced to 18 years in prison for federal hate and firearm convictions after firing bullets into the home of a Basin woman because she identified as an LGBTQI+ community member. We are determined to protect the civil rights of all Montanans and to ensure all of us, regardless of our sexual orientation or gender identity, have equal protection under law,” U.S. Attorney Laslovich said.
The meeting, held at the University of Montana Alexander Blewett III School of Law, provided an opportunity for members of the LGBTQI+ community to have a better understanding of hate crimes and hate incidents, how to report them to law enforcement and to learn about available resources.
Speakers at the Missoula event included U.S. Attorney Laslovich and Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Vestal, civil rights coordinator for the office. In addition, the event featured a panel discussion and question and comment session that included U.S. Attorney Laslovich, FBI Supervisory Special Agent Charles Sampson, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Equal Opportunity Lead Specialist Kate Boyd, Missoula Police Department Detective and LGBTQI+ Liaison Ethan Smith, Missoula County Attorney Chief Deputy Matt Jennings and the University of Montana’s Associate Vice President of Conflict, Resolution and Policy Alicia Arant.
The District of Montana will be holding additional United Against Hate events in the coming months in communities across the state. The first United Against Hate event was held on April 19 in Billings with members of the faith community.