New York, NY - November 17, 2016 - Alongside dozens of New York’s leading civil rights advocates, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that his office stands ready to protect and defend the constitutional and civil rights of all New Yorkers amid a surge of bias attacks nationwide and in New York. As his first action, the Attorney General’s office today issued an urgent bulletin to law enforcement offices statewide that provides guidance and support to identify, investigate, and prosecute hate crimes against immigrants, religious minorities, ethnic and racial minorities, women, LGBTQ New Yorkers, and other vulnerable communities.
Earlier Thursday, Attorney General Schneiderman held a roundtable discussion in New York City with immigrant community leaders and advocates to discuss concerns about the rise in hate crimes, harassment, and rhetoric targeting immigrant communities.
“As the state’s top law enforcement officer, let me assure anyone who is feeling scared or threatened at this time that this office stands behind you and has your back,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “New York’s diversity is our greatest strength, and we will not allow anyone to turn that strength against us.”
The bulletin, sent to local law enforcement agencies and district attorney’s offices, identifies available hate crimes statutes and stresses the need for law enforcement to properly identify incidents as possible hate crimes in the first instance.
“In the last week we’ve seen over 200 incidents of Hate Crimes across the country,” said Imam Khalid Latif, executive director of the Islamic Center at New York University. “Now, more so than ever it is important for all of us from diverse backgrounds to unite – and in this unity it is not just about speaking out, but also supporting the creation of institutionalized mechanisms and policy such as those that Attorney General Schneiderman is advocating for today.”
“The 155,000 members of 32BJ SEIU reject any and all acts of hate and division and will continue to do everything we can to support and protect the most vulnerable among us, including undocumented immigrants, our Muslim brothers and sisters and LGBT New Yorkers,” said Hector Figueroa, President of 32BJ SEIU. “We are proud to stand with Attorney General Schneiderman in defending the rights of all New Yorkers and look forward to working with him and his team to stand up for the city we know and love – one free of fear, hate and terror.”
"I applaud Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for leading the effort and coordinating this useful document," said Thomas Zugibe, President, District Attorneys Association of New York. “This will be an important tool for law enforcement and district attorney offices across the state and will aid in the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes and bias crimes. New York’s District Attorneys are committed to keeping all communities in New York safe and I look forward to sharing this with my fellow district attorneys.”
“The spate of anti-Semitic vandalism that has struck communities from upstate New York to the boroughs of New York City is deeply concerning," said Evan R. Bernstein, New York Regional Director, Anti-Defamation League. “The appearance of swastikas and anti-Muslim rhetoric on college campuses and public property are searing and breeds fear and fuels anxiety that has risen since the end of the presidential election. We have been gratified by the strong statements of support that have come from our elected officials in response to the hate and hope it continues.”
“LGBTQ immigrants are too often targets for violence and persecution. We are grateful to Attorney General Schneiderman for his leadership in ensuring that New York remains a safe haven for the queer immigrant community,” said Aaron C. Morris, Executive Director of Immigration Equality.
“Catholic Charities renews its commitment to support, assist and be in solidarity with immigrants and others who are feeling fearful and anxious in the aftermath of campaign rhetoric and proposed policies,” said Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director, The Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York. “We cannot allow a 'new normal' of hate, anger, and derision to be considered an acceptable means of dealing with disagreement and difference. We will continue our efforts to better the lives of our neighbors in need and we will continue to partner with many, including government. When our perspectives diverge, we will seek to engage, build bridges and raise awareness in a way that is civil and strong.”
“We are outraged at the recent increase in hateful rhetoric and acts of violence directed toward immigrants, toward the poor, and toward people of color generally. We will continue to defend and fight for these most vulnerable individuals, as we have for the last 140 years,” said Seymour James, Attorney-in-Chief, The Legal Aid Society.
“There has been a troubling wave of hate-motivated violence in the wake of the recent election, including against LGBTQ people,” said Human Rights Campaign’s Government Affairs Director David Stacy. “The tragic impact of these hate crimes is felt by families, friends and entire communities, creating fear and instability that ripples across the country -- including right here in New York. We applaud New York Attorney General Schneiderman for stepping up and taking action to help address these attacks and call upon law enforcement officials around New York to be vigilant and responsive.”
“We are thankful to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for his leadership in these troubling times,” said Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “We look forward to working closely with him and his staff in the coming months and years to ensure that New York State remains a welcoming space for immigrants, where their safety is prioritized and their diversity celebrated.”
“We of different political and religious beliefs stand resolutely with A.G. Eric Schneiderman in denouncing any expression of hatred anywhere in our State. We will not tolerate prejudice against any person or group because we believe we all belong to one human family. Thank you A.G. Schneiderman for bringing us together in the battle against bigotry,” said Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, Executive Vice President, New York Board of Rabbis.
“Asian American Federation, and our member and partner agencies thank our state’s Attorney General for his leadership in providing protection for vulnerable communities,” said Jo-Ann Yoo, Executive Director, Asian American Federation. “As it has been his agenda since he took office, he has been a champion of immigrant communities. More than ever, we need our law enforcement agencies to be on the front lines of addressing hate crimes against their fellow New Yorkers.”
Hate crimes – also known as bias-related crimes – are offenses that target particular individuals, groups of individuals, and property because of a bias or prejudice regarding race, color, national origin, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or identity, disability, religion, or some other protected characteristic as defined by law. These criminal acts include violence, threats and intimidation directed at individuals and groups as well as the destruction of public and private property.
Article 1, Section 11 of the New York State Constitution provides that no person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws of this state or its localities, and that no person shall, because of race, color, creed or religion, be subjected to any discrimination in his or her civil rights by any other person or by any firm, corporation, institution, or government agency.
A copy of the bulletin to law enforcement offices can be found here.