The U.S. Justice Department partnered with Linn County and Cedar Rapids law enforcement and community agencies in Iowa, to host a forum Jan. 30, to discuss hate crimes and bias incidents targeting Indian-American, other South Asians, as well as Arabs and other Muslim communities. A representative from the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service (CRS) served as the moderator.
Leaders from the Indian-American organizations including Sikhs and Muslims, joined the forum. Others present included representatives from the Linn County Attorney and Sheriff’s Offices, the Cedar Rapids Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Commission, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Iowa.
“Today’s meeting was an opportunity to discuss the topic of hate crimes in a safe environment,” said United States Attorney Kevin W. Techau who praised the agencies and the community members for attending the meeting and for their willingness to discuss issues that communities across the state and country encounter. “Hate crimes represent an attack not just on the individual victim but also on the victim’s community,” Techau emphasized. “The impact is broad because these crimes send a message of hate and violence to entire ethnic and religious groups.”
Techau said the perpetrators of such crimes intend to create fear and spread hatred. “We are committed to working with all communities to address the issue by working to prevent hate crimes as well as investigate and prosecute hate crimes whenever and wherever necessary.”
The CRS, operating under the Hate Crimes Protection Act, is authorized to work with communities to help them develop the capacity to prevent and respond more effectively to violent hate crimes committed on the basis of actual or perceived race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, or disability.
At the meeting, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tony Morfitt provided information on the federal statutes that criminalize various types of hate crimes. He gave the history of the federal hate crime law and the recent expansion of the groups protected by federal hate crime laws such as Sikhs and Hindus.
Morfitt emphasized that the defining characteristic of a federal hate crime is that the actions must have been motivated by hate and that an individual cannot be found guilty federally unless the government proves the person acted “because of” the victim’s status as a member of a protected group. As an example, Morfitt pointed to the case of United States of America v. Randy Metcalf, where the government last year proved at trial that a Dubuque, Iowa resident had assaulted an African American man in a local bar because of his race.
A question and answer session with community leaders and other attendees, followed presentations.