As hate-motivated violence increases, US Attorney, FBI and DHS meet with RI religious leaders
At a meeting hosted by U.S. Attorney Zachary Cunha on Thursday that included law enforcement, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, leaders of different faiths across Rhode Island expressed similar concerns about discrimination. , hate crimes and hate incidents. They want their followers to feel safe and they don’t want to close their doors to people in need, but they had to know what to do.
The United States Department of Justice has launched a national initiative, United against hate, for each United States Attorney’s Office, to work with their communities on hate crime awareness and how to report it. Federal authorities hope to bolster their efforts to combat unlawful acts of hate by improving reporting, reaching out to communities, increasing law enforcement training, and also using civilian repression.
Cunha said he plans to hold meetings for youth and other community groups, to meet the need for awareness.
Over the past decade, Cunha said, the FBI estimated that 55% of hate crimes go unreported.
“We all know that we live in a time when outpourings of vitriolic hatred have unfortunately become commonplace. Hate-motivated violence is also on the rise,” Cunha told the dozens of religious leaders at the meeting in Bishop McVinney Auditorium. “These incidents, both those that make headlines and those that simply ripple through communities, come at a terrible price. … The effect of hate crimes is being felt in communities across our state and hundreds of miles away, as individuals wonder if it can happen to their communities.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy R. Romero, who works on civil rights issues, and David Neill, the U.S. Attorney’s Coordinator for Violent Crime Prevention and Community Outreach, explained the hate crimes statutes and describes different scenarios – each ending with the same advice. “If it’s hateful or scary, report it,” Romero said. Even if something happens that seems small and shouldn’t be pursued, it could be related to other incidents or be a precursor to an escalation, she said.
This was met with relief by some, who invited the US Attorney’s office to their places of worship. “People are hesitant to come to places of worship for security reasons,” said an official at the Providence Muslim Community Center. “Places of worship are places of relief, where people can go when they want answers to certain questions, but these days we don’t want to close our doors to people who want to come. When people like you come to our places of worship, it sends the message that we are safe.
Rabbi Jeffrey W. Goldwasser of Temple Sinai in Cranston said that while he was aware of only a few anti-Semitic actions in Rhode Island — painted swastikas and toppled headstones in Jewish cemeteries — he wondered. if people were hesitant to report. “There’s a feeling in the Jewish community that anti-Semitism isn’t taken very seriously compared to other forms of hate, even though it’s so prevalent,” Goldwasser said. “I think that’s part of the reason why Jews tend to be less likely to report incidents, for fear of not being taken very seriously.”
While several said they have a good relationship with their local police, a priest said they should also consider relying on each other.
“I think in a lot of people there’s a resistance to reporting things, there’s some form of secrecy. I know that in Woonsocket there is a very, very strong culture of secrecy. People often think no one will care about me,” said Reverend Daniel J. Sweet, pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in Woonsocket. “We should come together and say no, we care about each other. As faith leaders, we must make it clear that we stand in solidarity with our communities against hate. »