U.S. Department of Justice Partners with Linn County and Cedar Rapids Law Enforcement and Community Agencies to Host Forum: Protecting Arab, Muslim, Sikh, and South Asian Communities and the Community Response to Hate Crimes
CEDAR RAPIDS, IA –The U.S. Department of Justice partnered with Linn County and Cedar Rapids law enforcement and community agencies to host a forum today to discuss hate crimes and bias incidents targeted against the Arab, Muslim, Sikh, and South Asian Communities. A representative from the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service (CRS) served as the moderator.
Pursuant to the Hate Crimes Protection Act, CRS is authorized to work with communities to help them develop the capacity to prevent and respond more effectively to violent hate crimes committed on the basis of actual or perceived race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, or disability. CRS is a remarkably unique federal component dedicated to assisting state and local units of government, private and public organizations, and community groups develop local capacity to prevent racial and ethnic tensions.
Joining in the forum were representatives from the Linn County Attorney and Sheriff’s Offices, the Cedar Rapids Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Commission, and leaders from the Arab, Muslim, Sikh, and South Asian communities in Cedar Rapids.
United States Attorney Kevin W. Techau expressed appreciation to the agencies involved and the community members attending for their willingness to discuss issues that communities across the state and country encounter. Techau stated, “The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the rights and freedoms of all people. Today’s meeting was an opportunity to discuss the topic of hate crimes in a safe environment. Hate crimes represent an attack not just on the individual victim but also on the victim's community. The impact is broad because these crimes send a message of hate and violence to entire ethnic and religious groups. The perpetrators of such crimes intend to create fear and spread hatred. We are committed to working with all communities to address the issue by working to prevent hate crimes as well as investigate and prosecute hate crimes whenever and wherever necessary.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tony Morfitt provided information on the federal statutes that criminalize various types of hate crimes. He covered the evolution of federal hate crime law and the recent expansion of the groups protected by federal hate crime laws.
Morfitt emphasized that the defining characteristic of a federal hate crime is that the actions must have been motivated by hate and that an individual cannot be found guilty federally unless the government proves the person acted “because of” the victim’s status as a member of a protected group. As an example, Morfitt pointed to the case of United States of America v. Randy Metcalf, where the government last year proved at trial that a Dubuque resident had assaulted an African American man in a local bar because of his race.
The Linn County Attorney’s Office presented information regarding Iowa hate crime laws. Representatives from CRS served as moderators and engaged the presenters and law enforcement and community leaders with questions from the audience.
To learn more about the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service, visit: https://www.justice.gov/crs.
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