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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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Washington292124
Marion275568
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Clackamas146438
Malheur71512
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Jackson4211
Lincoln4149
Yamhill40412
Union3922
Jefferson3323
Morrow3272
Polk30112
Linn26310
Klamath2001
Hood River1780
Wasco1723
Benton1626
Douglas1401
Josephine1082
Coos890
Columbia860
Clatsop830
Crook421
Baker360
Tillamook340
Lake320
Wallowa191
Curry140
Sherman140
Harney100
Gilliam40
Grant20
Unassigned00
Wheeler00

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San Diego30516568
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Alameda12136193
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Santa Clara11030192
Sacramento10174148
Tulare10078193
Imperial9513232
Stanislaus9308135
Contra Costa8324131
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San Francisco708162
Santa Barbara652664
San Mateo5758120
Marin518076
Monterey496634
Merced458351
Kings445356
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Sonoma320842
Madera211432
Placer199819
San Luis Obispo197016
Yolo161442
Santa Cruz11964
Butte10128
Napa10079
Sutter8406
San Benito6894
El Dorado6681
Lassen6320
Yuba5334
Shasta4049
Colusa3594
Glenn3462
Mendocino3419
Nevada3161
Tehama2491
Humboldt2454
Lake2111
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Tuolumne1442
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