Wyden, Merkley Call for Presidential Task Force to Combat Hate Crimes, Violence

Washington, D.C. – Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley today called on the president to form a task force to address the alarming rise of hate crimes across many communities in the United States over the last several years.

“We urge you to establish a Presidential Task Force on preventing and combating hate violence, to begin an important national dialogue on how best to counter hate,” Wyden and Merkley wrote, along with 11 other senators, in their letter to Trump.

“There has been an alarming rise in hate violence and threats against religious and racial minorities across the United States,” they wrote. “These crimes and threats of violence are unacceptable and are contrary to America’s foundational values of tolerance, respect, and freedom of religion.”

Hate violence is not new in America, but recent data show the problem has deepened. According to the FBI, there were 5,580 hate-related crimes in the United States in 2015. Further, 2016 saw a record 139 violent acts perpetrated against mosques. Jewish centers in Portland and nationwide have been threatened with violence more than 150 times in the first three months of this year alone. Numerous news reports this year have chronicled the incidences of vandalism at Jewish cemeteries and arson at mosques.

The presidential task force would make addressing hate violence a national priority and enlist the help of faith leaders, federal and government agencies, community advocates, law enforcement, and other groups to tackle the problem head-on. The group would analyze the causes behind the surge in hate crimes, and then determine the best approaches to reverse the disturbing trend. 

Joining Wyden and Merkley in signing the letter were Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wa.), Ed Markey (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Bob Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL).

A full copy of the letter can be found HERE.