Effort Underway to Strengthen Oregon Hate-Crime Laws

Oregon's Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum is holding several public meetings to discuss the punishment for hate crimes — including a visit to Medford.

Posted: Jan 8, 2019 1:50 PM
Updated: Jan 8, 2019 4:45 PM

By ANDREW SELSKY , Associated Press

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Immigrants, Muslims, people of color, top law enforcement officers and state officials packed into a room to discuss the sharp rise of hate crime in Oregon, with the goal of strengthening the state's lax laws against it.

For all its imagery as a bastion of liberalism, Oregon has a dark history of racism and xenophobia, and today serious attacks and threats often make headlines.

The gathering Monday night in Portland was the first of three planned this week by a task force created by Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum.

Hate crimes increased by 40 percent in Oregon from 2016 to 2017, according to FBI statistics.

"It is appalling that hate-motivated crimes are on the increase in Oregon," Rosenblum said in a statement. "This reality requires us to act."

More than 100 people attended the "listening session" at Unite Oregon, said Seemab Hussaini, an organizer with the intercultural organization.


CLICK HERE for information on Attorney General Rosenblum's upcoming visit to Medford for a similar session on hate crime.


Rosenblum's spokeswoman, Kristina Edmunson, said she heard Muslims, Latinos, members of the transgender community and others speak powerfully in the standing-room-only crowd.

One man, an immigrant from Africa, described people shouting racist slurs at him while he was walking down the street in Portland, Hussaini said.

Hussaini, whose group is part of the hate crimes task force, marveled at how it has brought law enforcement and immigrants, people of color and others together. Among those attending Monday's session were the police chief of Salem and a sheriff, Hussaini said.

"To be on a task force with law enforcement officials, to maintain our identity, to correct the record and speak frankly and clearly to these powers, gives us keen insights and allows us to have an exchange with law enforcement that is usually absent," Hussaini said.

The turnout showed there's "overwhelming support" for the effort to strengthen the state's hate-crime laws, Hussaini said.

Currently, the crime of intimidation in the first degree, a felony, applies only if two or more people harm another person because of "that person's race, color, religion, sexual orientation, disability or national origin," or if they cause another person to fear imminent serious injury.

But if person motivated by prejudice acts alone, it's only intimidation in the second degree — a misdemeanor. It's also a misdemeanor if a person tampers with property or makes threats because of prejudice.

A glaring example, Hussaini said, is the case of Jeremy Christian, who allegedly stabbed three people — killing two of them — aboard a light-rail train in Portland in May 2017. The victims had tried to intervene as Christian spewed anti-Muslim threats at two black teenage girls.

Yet it was not classified as a hate crime, Hussaini noted. Christian's trial on charges including aggravated murder is pending.

The task force is seeking to help craft legislation that would go before lawmakers during the 2019 session. It would also address data collection.

The other listening sessions were scheduled for Tuesday in Eugene and Wednesday in Medford.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 190804

Reported Deaths: 2528
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Multnomah37830583
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Lane12799145
Jackson10716135
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Linn479867
Yamhill441175
Klamath430861
Polk369952
Malheur349861
Josephine330268
Douglas322070
Benton302619
Jefferson216734
Coos204633
Columbia170526
Union144423
Lincoln137020
Wasco137028
Hood River117930
Morrow110015
Crook106520
Clatsop9738
Baker94614
Curry6459
Tillamook6363
Grant5065
Lake4447
Harney3378
Wallowa1825
Gilliam621
Sherman581
Wheeler281
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Cases: 3757115

Reported Deaths: 62280
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Los Angeles123542224008
Riverside2990644587
San Bernardino2965144697
San Diego2777593725
Orange2707055005
Santa Clara1188512085
Kern1089931373
Sacramento1041761672
Fresno1016251684
Alameda875851545
Ventura808421011
San Joaquin730091391
Contra Costa68503804
Stanislaus619161055
Tulare49554839
Monterey43563382
San Mateo41844568
San Francisco36616543
Santa Barbara34306453
Solano32752249
Merced31743458
Sonoma29975318
Imperial28352721
Kings22965246
Placer22550290
San Luis Obispo21282260
Madera16439242
Santa Cruz16188206
Marin14034228
Yolo13875209
Shasta12071226
Butte11943199
El Dorado10111112
Napa984981
Sutter9411111
Yuba622146
San Benito604863
Lassen569824
Tehama555358
Nevada470775
Tuolumne412364
Mendocino406149
Humboldt393539
Amador365147
Lake346743
Glenn238125
Colusa223016
Siskiyou218123
Calaveras212153
Inyo142638
Del Norte13678
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Modoc4954
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