California AG visits Riverside to talk fighting hate crime – Press Enterprise

When it comes to community conversations — particularly on issues of race, equity and hate — honesty can be uncomfortable.

But for about 40 minutes on Tuesday morning, Oct. 19, Riverside city officials, along with several community partners, sat in a conference room at City Hall, facing the state’s top lawyer and law enforcement officer, Attorney General Rob Bonta, discussing a solutions-oriented approach to hate crime.

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The group wanted a “real conversation” — with all the honesty and discomfort that might entail — because most of its members not only knew one another, but had rallied around each other in times of need, said Carlos Cortes, who chairs the Mayor’s Multicultural Forum. He also moderated Tuesday’s roundtable.

“The common consensus was let’s get ahead,” he said of the roundtable discussion, which was held behind closed doors. “We can’t wait around for things to explode. We need to be proactive when it comes to fighting hate.”

The anti-hate roundtable was the fifth of its kind Bonta has hosted statewide. There was a forthrightness in the room Tuesday that is normally missing from such conversations, said Malek Bendelhoum, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, an umbrella organization that serves nearly 80 mosques in the region.

“There was no skating around issues in today’s discussion, and honestly, I didn’t expect that,” Bendelhoum said. “That’s the way it should be. If we really want to tackle hate, we need to get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.”

For example, Bendelhoum said, the group talked about how members of all communities hold implicit biases. It’s important to acknowledge that fact, he said.

The attorney general’s goal is to hear from communities, give them information about resources that are available to them to fight hate and to come up with proactive solutions to extinguish hate. Hate crimes are a crisis in the state and the nation, according to Bonta.

“People are afraid to go for a walk, take their kids to school or go to church,” he said at a news conference Tuesday after the roundtable. “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.”

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California’s Department of Justice reported that hate crimes in the state reached their highest reported level in a decade hitting the 1,300 mark in 2020. Anti-Black hate crimes saw an 88% increase over 2019 while anti-Asian hate crimes more than doubled with a 107% jump from 2019, the biggest percentage increase among demographic groups.

In response to these staggering numbers, Bonta’s office in May launched a Racial Justice Bureau and a virtual convening against hate crime with California’s Big City Mayors as efforts to lead the development of strategies 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 he said would focus on cultivating relationships with historically marginalized and underrepresented communities.

Tuesday, he called these efforts “a down payment for getting this work done.” While hate is not a new concept, he said, neither is solidarity. Unity is the key to unlocking partnerships between communities in the fight against hate, he said.


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