South Bay lawmakers propose hate crimes task force

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- In the wake of mass shootings across the country, lawmakers in the South Bay unveiled a new plan Wednesday to address local hate crimes.

"There is a lot of fear in our communities of color, in our immigrant communities, in our LGBTQ communities, and all of our communities that know firsthand the trauma of hate," said San Jose City Councilwoman Maya Esparza.

Esparza, joined by Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, announced a proposal to create a regional task force to also look at racism and violence incited by hate speech.

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"What hate speech does is create environments for people to act inappropriately and violently," said Chavez. "How (at a local level) do we create the space for people to get to know each other to have these conversations so that we're not yelling 'fire in a crowded theater' anymore?"

According the Southern Poverty Law Center, the number of hate groups have grown year-to-year since 2016. FBI statistics indicate a similar trend in racially-motivated hate crimes over the same time frame.

"When we're unified, then we can gain some political strength, and then we vote, and then we organize," said San Jose City Councilwoman Sylvia Arenas. "We make sure that our children are protected and when there is something happening in our community, we speak up."

The task force would focus on efforts to protect women, children, and minorities, especially members of the Latino community. County officials say it would also make recommendations on investments in law enforcement intelligence to combat the illegal gun trade. and to monitor the proliferation of hate speech. Organizations such as the Council of American Islamic Relations were encouraged by the announcement.

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"Hate crimes are being underreported a lot of times because people might not know the proper resources or authorities to turn to, or they might have fears about actually going to authorities," said Jeffrey Wang, a civil right attorney with CAIR-San Francisco Bay Area.

Both the San Jose City Council and the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors will review the proposal over the next month.
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