Federal-state joint initiative against hate crimes launched in New Jersey

iNDICA News Bureau-

U.S. Attorney Philip R Sellinger announced April 20 his office’s participation in a first-of-its-kind anti-hate-crime outreach program entitled United Against Hate.

The program seeks to directly connect federal, state and local law enforcement with traditionally marginalized communities to build trust and encourage the reporting of hate crimes and incidents.

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division joined U.S. Attorney Sellinger, acting New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J Platkin and acting Special Agent in Charge Terence Reilly of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Newark field division to announce their federal and state partnership on the initiative.

After they spoke to an audience of community leaders, civil rights advocates and community members, subject experts from their offices engaged in a presentation and discussion with community leaders and advocates about taking steps to identify, report and prevent hate crimes and incidents.

“Hate crimes and discrimination are antithetical to the core principles underlying our democracy,” Sellinger said. “No one should ever be subject to acts of discrimination or hate because of where they are from, what they look like, whom they love, or how they worship.”

He said the United Against Hate initiative was being launched in the state of New Jersey in response to a dramatic increase in hate crimes and incidents and combating hate crimes, hate incidents, and discrimination is central to the mission.

Sellinger added that the departments collaborating on the initiative are “eager to take steps to combat hate beyond prosecution” with dynamic outreach and prevention efforts.

“The U.S. Department of Justice continues to marshal all resources at its disposal to hold people who engage in unlawful, bias-motivated acts of hate accountable,” said Assistant Attorney General Clarke. “Through United Against Hate, we are bringing together the Justice Department, local law enforcement, and community leaders to strengthen our overall efforts to combat hate crimes and prevent hate incidents. Our communities, schools, workplaces and homes are all safer when we stand unified in the fight against hate.”

“The ripple effect of hate crimes is felt hundreds, even thousands of miles away,” said acting Special Agent in Charge Reilly. “People who identify with those victims see themselves and wonder, ‘will it happen here?’ and ‘will I be next?’

“The Constitution of the United States grants us many freedoms. When any one of those freedoms — or any other constitutional right — is threatened or violated, we have to respond. And when I say ‘we’, I’m not speaking just as a member of the FBI. I’m speaking as a member of the community,” he said.

“Because if we don’t respond, we risk the erosion of our very identity as a nation,” Reilly continued. “That’s why the FBI embarked on a hate crimes awareness campaign last year. We want people to call us if they have witnessed or been subjected to a hate crime.”

Acting Attorney General Platkin said the numbers are clear: “Hate and bias are at an all-time high across our nation and in New Jersey. One of the strongest tools we have at our disposal is the collaboration between government and community stakeholders. That is why I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with federal and state partners who share the same commitment and urgency to stem the tide of hate.”

The U.S. attorney’s office for the district of New Jersey was chosen as one of three districts, out of 94 in the country, to advance the United Against Hate outreach initiative. The U.S. attorney’s office plans to engage with communities across New Jersey to deepen connections with them, further hate crimes prevention efforts, and encourage more people to report hate crimes and hate incidents.

Last month, U.S. Attorney Sellinger announced the creation of a civil rights division within his office. This new division, which enforces both civil and criminal civil rights laws, will engage with local community members, advocacy groups, and other federal and state agencies to protect civil rights. The division will lead the U.S. attorney’s office’s efforts in implementing the United Against Hate initiative.

Members of the public may report possible civil rights violations through https://www.justice.gov/usao-nj/civil-rights-enforcement or call the U.S. attorney’s civil rights hotline at (855) 281-3339.