Drew Naté |
On Tuesday morning, Oct. 19, Attorney General Rob Bonta met with Riverside City officials to lead an anti-hate roundtable discussion, something that has been a statewide issue in California.
Other roundtable participants included: Patricia Lock Dawson, Mayor, City of Riverside, Malek Bendelhoum, Executive Director, Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, Rabbi Suzanne Singer, Temple Beth El, Corey Jackson, Board Member, Riverside NAACP and Riverside County Board of Education, Katie Gilbertson, Executive Director, Family Justice Center, Steven Merral, Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, Mary Figueroa, Trustee, Riverside Community College District Board of Trustees, Rochelle Kanatzar, Chair Human Relations Commission, Mariam Lam, Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, University of California, Chief Larry Gonzalez, Riverside Police Department, Phaedra Norton, City Attorney, City of Riverside, and Carlos Cortes, Chair, Mayor’s Multicultural Forum (Moderator).
Attorney General Bonta’s goal for the discussion was to hear from different communities, give information about resources that can help combat against hate crimes as well as to produce solutions that could be proactive. The closed-door discussion lasted for about 40 minutes and was Bonta’s fifth stop in his tour of the thirteen most populated cities in the state.
Following the roundtable discussion Bonta spoke at a news conference where he said, “People are afraid to go for a walk, take their kids to school or go to church.” adding, “People are being attacked because of who they are, what they look like, who they love and how they pray. There’s no room for hate.”
Data from the California Department of Justice shows anti-Black hate crimes increased by 88% from 2019 to 2020. Anti-Asian hate crimes rose 107% and the state experienced an overall increase in hate crimes of 30%.
Bonta said, “We are working with our local law enforcement partners throughout the State of California to help ensure that they are using best practices and have the support, in resources, to identify and investigate hate crimes.”
The FBI’s 2020 Hate Crimes Statistics Report released August 30 showed the increase in hate crimes is national. Across the country there were 7.759 hate crime incidents involving 10.532 offenses last year.
The FBI report also reflected findings nationally, like those in California, related to hate crimes against African Americans. According to the report, although 51.9 percent of hate crime victims in 2020 were targeted because of their race, ethnicity, and/or ancestry, “bias against African Americans overwhelmingly comprised the largest category of race-based hate crime incidents, with a total of 56% of race-based hate crimes being motivated by anti-Black bias.”
Last May, in response to the increasing number of hate crimes in California, Bonta’s office launched a Racial Justice Bureau and a virtual convening against hate crimes with California’s Big City Mayors in an effort to address hate and bias and to strengthen responses to hate crimes statewide.
In July, Bonta announced the launch of the Office of Community Awareness, Response and Engagement (CARE), which has the goal of cultivating relationships with historically marginalized and underrepresented communities.
Although Riverside had minimal cases in 2020, with only 14 or 15 reported. Bonta said, “I really appreciated hearing from our leaders here in Riverside about their approach and focusing on prevention and proactive steps to avoid hate incidents from happening in the first place.”
Riverside Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson, who was also involved in discussion and the news conference, said that even though such hate incidents are not common in Riverside, the city is not immune, and the statewide reality regarding the increase in hate crimes should not be ignored here at home. She said, “Riverside needs to play its part in addressing this statewide increase by being a resource to other cities and our state partners.”
“The common consensus was let’s get ahead,” Bonta said at the news conference. “We can’t wait for things to explode. We need to be proactive when it comes to fighting hate.”
Follow this link for information on how to identify and report hate crimes.
Header photo: Attorney General Rob Bonta (Courtesy of Wikipedia)