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Remarks of Assistant Attorney General Amy L. Solomon at the Reconciling the Past, Building the Future: Law Enforcement and Community Partnerships Against Hate, Baltimore, MD
Good morning. My name is Amy Solomon, and I’m the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs in the U.S. Department of Justice.
It’s a privilege to join you all today in this beautiful and historic building. I’m grateful to Maryland’s Attorney General, Anthony Brown, for serving as our host and for leading the inspiring effort that will be highlighted today.
I want to recognize my Justice Department colleagues, Justin Lock, head of the Community Relations Service, and Robby Monteleone from the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys. I’m also glad to be joined by:
- Karhlton Moore, Director of our Bureau of Justice Assistance;
- Nancy La Vigne, Director of the National Institute of Justice;
- Karen Friedman – a longtime and esteemed judge here in Baltimore and now BJA’s Director of Criminal Justice Innovation, Development and Engagement;
- Hayne Yoon, Senior Advisor who’s leading much of our hate crimes work at OJP, as well a tremendous team from BJA and the Office of Justice Programs who are so dedicated to this work;
- And I’m very pleased that later we will hear from Deputy Associate Attorney General Saeed Mody, who serves as the Department’s Anti-Hate Crimes Resources Coordinator.
To get us underway, it’s my privilege and honor to introduce our first speaker. Throughout her distinguished career, Vanita Gupta has been a steadfast champion of equal justice and a staunch foe of intolerance, intimidation and exclusion. As the third-ranking official at the Department of Justice, she works hard, every day, to protect the civil rights of every American, and she is a strong and vocal supporter of communities in their efforts to combat hate and bias.
We are fortunate to have her leadership at the Department, and I am so glad she could join us today to kick off this event. Please join me in welcoming the Associate Attorney General of the United States, Vanita Gupta.
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Thank you so much, Associate Attorney General Gupta, for your deep commitment and strong leadership on these issues.
As you have just heard, the Department of Justice is working on all fronts to reverse the rise in violence motivated by bias and hate. You will hear in a moment from other leaders across the Department about the steps we are taking to stem the tide of hate – by ramping up hate crime investigations and prosecutions, by ensuring that victims receive assistance and by supporting community-led efforts to prevent and heal from acts of hate.
You will also hear from our partners here in Maryland about the groundbreaking work they are doing to root out hate and reconcile past wrongs that have left a legacy of pain in local communities. The Maryland Lynching Truth and Reconciliation Commission is shining a light on historic injustices that continue to impede racial progress. As the commission is showing, we can only escape the long shadow of hate and truly begin to heal by addressing, head on, the sins of our past. With funding from our Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Maryland Attorney General’s Office is supporting the commission’s work.
We are also proud to support the Office of the Attorney General in a demonstration project that focuses on modern-day forms of hate. This project provides resources to operate a statewide reporting hotline, train law enforcement professionals and prosecutors and conduct regional hate and bias forums. This effort is advised by a diverse team of experts from across disciplines and across the state, represented through the Maryland Commission on Hate Crime Response and Prevention. This strategy – a 360-degree approach to moving forward by learning from the past – is a national model that, I believe, will put us on a path to removing the sources and symptoms of hate in our country.
We know that other communities are taking important steps to heal from historical trauma, as well. Funding from our Emmett Till Cold Case Investigation and Prosecution Program is supporting a partnership between the Tulsa Police and the Greenwood Cultural Center to apply contemporary lessons from the Tulsa Race Massacre. I had the opportunity to visit Greenwood last year, and was so moved by their efforts to reconcile lessons from the past in order to build a better future.
And in Alabama, a grant to Jefferson County [the Jefferson County Office of the District Attorney, working in partnership with the Jefferson County Memorial Project] supports a fellowship program that is helping to investigate more than 30 cases of racial terror that have remained unsolved for decades. These are just a couple examples of the pioneering initiatives underway across the country.
This work to confront the wounds of our past is deeply personal for so many of us. My own grandfather and great-grandfather were rabbis in Louisiana and Texas during years of increased Klan activity in the South. In response to some of the more acute threats to the Jewish community, I am told that they joined forces with fellow clergy and a multi-racial, multi-denominational community of supporters to stand up against hate. Their fight for justice, for community and for humanity has always inspired me, and the work we’re highlighting today here in Maryland, and across the country, resonates deeply for me, as I’m sure it does for many others.
Needless to say, I am so proud – and so moved – by the resources we’re spotlighting today. Funding from across the Office of Justice Programs is helping to improve the reporting, investigation and prosecution of hate crimes, while providing services to victims and affected communities. These programs place a heavy emphasis on community engagement, outreach and education as a critical aspect of the criminal justice approach to hate crimes.
For example, programs managed by our Bureau of Justice Assistance support community-based responses and prevention initiatives. You’ll hear more about that from BJA’s Director Karhlton Moore in just a moment. We are investing in research, through our National Institute of Justice, to study prevention strategies, including community-based responses. You will more about that a little later from NIJ’s Director, Nancy La Vigne.
Our Bureau of Justice Statistics and Office for Victims of Crime are both working to help improve reporting to make sure we are capturing the full extent of hate crimes in our country. And our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention has hosted a series of webinars addressing the intersection of hate, identity-based bullying and racial bias.
Over the last two years, the Office of Justice Programs has invested substantial resources in community efforts to tackle hate crimes, and I’m thrilled that we are building on that commitment with the new investments that the Associate Attorney General just announced. These resources will allow us to continue to support the game-changing work being done here in Maryland and in states and local jurisdictions across the country. These investments send a clear signal of our resolve to counter expressions of hate, whether they’re motivated by religious animus, racial or ethnic bias, or intolerance related to sexual orientation or gender identity.
One final note: This year marks 25 years since the brutal deaths of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Their murders – two modern-day lynchings – shocked the country and reminded us that hate is not just a relic of the distant past. They also roused the nation from its complacency and inspired concerted action, including legislation that brought to life one of our key grant programs, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Program. I’m proud that the Office of Justice Programs has been entrusted with this important initiative. We hope that, in managing the resources available under this vital program, we are acting as worthy stewards of their memory.
Everyone deserves to live free of violence and intimidation, and only by working together can we continue the march toward full inclusion and equal justice. On behalf of the Department of Justice, I want to thank all of you for standing with us against hate and bias. We are proud to be your partners.
It’s now my great pleasure to introduce our next speaker, and our host for this event. Attorney General Anthony Brown perhaps needs no introduction in this room; he is a seasoned leader who has represented Maryland via many roles over many years. But it is hard to overstate the significance of the efforts he is spearheading now that boldly address equity and justice. He sets a high bar and an incredible example for other state Attorneys General. Please welcome the chief legal officer for the great state of Maryland, Attorney General Anthony Brown.
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Thank you so much, Attorney General Brown. We’re grateful for your leadership and partnership, and we are very excited to see what lies ahead with the inspiring work you are doing here in Maryland.
Thank you, as well, Justin, for telling us about the vital work that CRS is leading, and for your deep and passionate commitment to America’s communities.
It’s now my great pleasure to turn things over to my colleague, Karhlton Moore. As I mentioned earlier, Karhlton is the Director of our Bureau of Justice Assistance, which manages much of our hate crimes grant portfolio. Karhlton himself is a long-time champion of fair and humane criminal justice practices, and is one of the Justice Department’s most forceful advocates for equal justice. He’ll be leading a discussion with several distinguished federal, state and local officials about innovative efforts to address hate and bias crimes.
Karhlton, I’ll turn it over to you.