Hate crimes must be a Jus­tice fo­cus

The Denver Post - - OPINION -

Last Monday, U.S. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Loretta Lynch vis­ited a mosque in North­ern Vir­ginia, and on Tues­day she held a roundtable with LGBT youths at a New York high school. It is not hap­pen­stance that she is us­ing her last month in of­fice to reach out to groups that are among the most vul­ner­a­ble to hate crimes. Hope­fully her mes­sage will be em­braced and ex­tended by the in­com­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion of Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump.

Lynch’s visit to the All Dulles Area Mus­lim So­ci­ety was her first to a mosque while in of­fice and came amid what she pre­vi­ously char­ac­ter­ized as an “alarm­ing” rise in anti-Mus­lim crime. A re­port by the FBI last month showed re­ported hate crimes against Mus­lims in­creased by nearly 67 per­cent in 2015 com­pared with the pre­vi­ous year, mak­ing for the high­est num­ber since the af­ter­math of the Sept. 11, 2001, ter­ror­ist at­tacks. Since the elec­tion of Trump, civil rights groups and oth­ers have cat­a­logued hun­dreds of in­ci­dents around the coun­try that tar­geted Mus­lims, im­mi­grants, blacks, Jews, women and LGBT peo­ple.

A re­port from the South­ern Poverty Law Cen­ter doc­u­mented 867 re­ports of ha­rass­ment and in­tim­i­da­tion in the 10 days fol­low­ing the Nov. 8 elec­tion. The re­port noted the tar­gets of the post-elec­tion in­ci­dents re­ported they were ex­pe­ri­enc­ing some­thing new, with many of the ha­rassers in­vok­ing the name of Trump, whose cam­paign in­cluded thinly veiled ap­peals to white na­tion­al­ists. Trump’s per­func­tory de­nun­ci­a­tion of the at­tacks thus far stands in dis­ap­point­ing con­trast to Lynch’s out­reach or, for that mat­ter, to then-Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush’s visit to a mosque in the emo­tional af­ter­math of 9/11.

What Lynch and Bush re­al­ize is that the dam­age of a hate crime ex­tends be­yond the in­di­vid­ual be­ing tar­geted to an en­tire group of peo­ple who fear be­com­ing the next vic­tim. “When one of us is threat­ened, we all have to speak out,” Lynch told the in­ter­faith gath­er­ing of Chris­tians and Mus­lims in Loudoun County on Monday. Just as im­por­tant is the en­force­ment of fed­eral hate-crime laws, and here again there is cause for con­cern with the in­com­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion. Trump’s choice to re­place Lynch as at­tor­ney gen­eral, Sen. Jeff Ses­sions, R-Ala., vig­or­ously op­posed ex­pan­sion of fed­eral hate-crime pro­tec­tions in 2009; if con­firmed, he will have great sway in de­cid­ing the di­rec­tion of the Jus­tice De­part­ment. It is im­por­tant that Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings press Ses­sions on where en­sur­ing just and fair treat­ment for all Amer­i­cans ranks in his pri­or­i­ties.

MIKE NELSON’S DEN­VER FORE­CAST

Mostly sunny and not as cold Monday. Tem­per­a­tures rise to the up­per 30s and low 40s. How­ever, wind-chill val­ues as low as -7 are pos­si­ble. Overnight lows drop to the 20s, be­fore a milder day moves in Tues­day.

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