RICHMOND, Va. (WFXR) — On Friday morning, Attorney General Mark Herring announced his plans to reintroduce a legislative package that would protect Virginians from hate crimes and white supremacist violence.
“My hate crimes and white supremacist violence bills have been bottled up in Republican-controlled committees for years, but this year, with a new General Assembly, we will pass this critical legislation,” says Herring. “We have to send a message to the peddlers of hate that they are not welcome here and their hate and violence will not be tolerated in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
According to the Virginia State Police, hate crimes in the Commonwealth have increased by approximately 31 percent over the last six years. In 2018 alone, authorities reported a total of 161 hate crimes. Of these 161 hate crimes, police say 97 were motivated by race, 25 were motivated by religion, and 23 were motivated by sexual orientation.
In order to combat future hate crimes, Herring’s legislative proposal includes six bills developed alongside several Virginia politicians. These bills will aim to:
- Update the Commonwealth’s definition of a “hate crime” to protect against crimes committed on the basis of disability, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation;
- Allow the Attorney General to prosecute hate crimes through a statewide network of multi-jurisdictional grand juries;
- Prohibit the kind of paramilitary activity used by white supremacist militias and similar groups leading up the events in Charlottesville in August 2017;
- Create stronger sentences for domestic terrorism convictions;
- Authorize communities to ban firearms at permitted events — or events that would otherwise need permits — in public spaces;
- And bar people convicted of hate crimes from possessing firearms.
In addition to his proposed legislative package, Herring launched www.NoHateVA.com and traveled across the Commonwealth to discuss the negative effects of hate crimes on vulnerable communities.
“I will not let up until every Virginian can live without fear of violence and hate because of what they look like, how they worship, where they came from, or who they love,” says Herring.
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