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

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 132412

Reported Deaths: 1799
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah28237458
Washington18512171
Marion16085238
Clackamas11577138
Lane8219108
Jackson686284
Umatilla670968
Deschutes490736
Yamhill316245
Malheur312452
Linn310246
Klamath242238
Polk241340
Josephine170633
Jefferson168725
Benton168414
Douglas166643
Union110416
Wasco106323
Columbia103318
Lincoln98517
Hood River94821
Coos93315
Morrow92710
Clatsop6695
Crook60410
Baker5665
Tillamook3622
Curry3185
Lake2295
Grant2131
Harney1734
Wallowa963
Gilliam481
Sherman470
Wheeler201
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 2955323

Reported Deaths: 33342
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles100392313741
San Bernardino2482851560
Riverside2352352517
San Diego2098972065
Orange2093652320
Santa Clara914661060
Kern83547558
Sacramento802791080
Fresno79950932
Alameda65679757
Ventura59061412
San Joaquin56484748
Contra Costa50627430
Stanislaus41925739
Tulare40176501
Monterey34959249
San Mateo31291294
San Francisco28574254
Imperial24944463
Solano24654105
Santa Barbara23538228
Merced23492296
Sonoma23204234
Kings18661110
Placer16761173
San Luis Obispo15129128
Madera12883130
Santa Cruz11776113
Marin11345153
Yolo10240131
Shasta9594117
Butte9233121
El Dorado751544
Sutter748477
Napa723139
Lassen509413
San Benito485043
Yuba481827
Tehama397142
Tuolumne330438
Nevada309973
Mendocino307631
Amador295329
Lake243428
Humboldt226324
Glenn182419
Colusa16919
Calaveras153823
Siskiyou140813
Mono10834
Inyo92429
Del Norte8472
Plumas5735
Modoc3783
Mariposa3434
Trinity3024
Alpine730
Sierra700
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