CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Today, U.S. Attorney Dena J. King, along with members of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Civil Rights Team and federal and local law enforcement partners, met with representatives of the Sikh community.
Today’s meeting was the first of a series of planned outreach and educational events to be conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office as part of the Justice Department’s “United Against Hate” (UAH) initiative. In September 2022, the Justice Department announced the launching of UAH, a nationwide program created to combat the rise in unlawful acts of hate.
In the Western District of North Carolina, the UAH initiative will include a series of events focusing on community groups at risk of being targeted in hate crimes and incidents of hate. Each event will give participants an opportunity to directly connect with federal prosecutors and law enforcement to increase community understanding of hate crimes and hate incidents; provide a mechanism for reporting potential hate crimes and civil rights violations; build trust between law enforcement and communities; and create and strengthen alliances with government partners and community groups to combat unlawful acts of hate.
“People in communities across the Western District have the right to live their lives free from fear, violence, and intimidation. This fundamental right is guaranteed and protected by the Constitution. Unfortunately, certain groups are frequent targets of acts of hate and abuse,” said U.S. Attorney King. “The purpose of this initiative is to protect our communities, educate members on their rights and the relevant law, provide an avenue for reporting hate crimes and incidents of hate, and increase trust in our criminal justice system. I am looking forward to attending the outreach events, participating in a productive dialogue with community members, and working collaboratively to combat hate crimes.”
Today’s event, which was held at the Gurdwara Khalsa Darbar, the Sikh faith center in Charlotte, featured a presentation by Assistant U.S. Attorneys with experience in prosecuting hate crimes and civil rights violations, and law enforcement representatives with the FBI, and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department. In addition to law enforcement, representatives from the Justice Department’s Community Relations Service were also in attendance. The presenters facilitated a discussion with representatives of the Sikh community centered on hate crimes, including defining hate crimes versus hate incidents; the importance of reporting acts of hate to law enforcement; providing options for responding to hate incidents when situations do not constitute federal or state crimes; and distinguishing unlawful conduct from protected First Amendment activity, with a focus on identifying protected speech versus speech that advocates violence or encourages people to commit hate crimes.
“The Sikh community of Charlotte greatly values the relationship it has built with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, going back to 2008. With the Office’s help, we have always been able to reach out to federal law enforcement for assistance with any challenge our community faces, whether it is school bullying, diversity training at the airport, security of the Gurdwara, or civil rights matters. Today, the U.S. Attorney’s Office continues to play a pivotal role in shaping and nurturing this relationship. Our community is grateful for everything this Office has done for us,” said Pushpinder Garcha, a representative of the United Sikhs.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office will hold additional UAH events in the upcoming months to engage with communities throughout the Western District.
On May 27, 2021, U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland issued a memorandum on improving the Justice Department’s efforts to combat unlawful acts of hate, and emphasized the need to actively engage in outreach and educational efforts centered around hate crimes.