Attorney General Mark Herring pushing for anti-hate crime laws

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RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY/AP) — Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring says he will propose legislation aimed at preventing hate crimes and white-supremacist violence.

Herring’s announcement on Thursday comes in response to an increase in hate crimes in Virginia and around the country, notably a deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville in August 2017.

“It’s hard to believe that in this day and age that so much ignorance and hate exists,” said Ohef Sholom Rabbi Roz Mandelberg.

Mandelberg, like so many, couldn’t believe what was happening in Charlottesville.

“It was was terrifying and horrifying,” Mandelberg added.

New crime stats show hate crimes and white supremacist violence are on the rise in the U.S. and really on the rise in Virginia.

“We have seen how hate and bigotry can turn violent, even deadly, incredibly quickly,” Herring said.

Herring says in 2017, there was a 17 percent increase in hate crimes nationwide and a 50 percent rise in the Commonwealth. In the last five years, hate crimes are up 65 percent in Virginia.

“One of the things that makes hate crimes especially harmful it that it is designed to strike fear in an entire group of people,” Herring added.

This will be Herring’s third consecutive proposal of such legislation. Two previous attempts have failed to win approval from Virginia’s General Assembly.

“Unfortunately the General Assembly in my view has not taken it with the degree of seriousness that it should be,” Herring said. “The threat to public safety is real. The impact of our communities is real.”

Herring said his proposals would create more power for law enforcement to identify hate groups and step in before they commit violence. The measures would also bar anyone convicted of a hate crime from possessing a gun.

“Community leaders and public officials at every level need to condemn this ideology of hate and bigotry and white supremacy,” Herring added.

Herring has scheduled round-table discussions about his proposals around the state.  There will be one in Norfolk on December 6. He plans to introduce his proposals after the legislature reconvenes in January.

“I think anything we can do to show that the Commonwealth supports all of our residents and citizens is outstanding,” Mandelberg said.

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