NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring continues his push to gain support for his anti hate crimes bills.
He held a roundtable with community members and leaders at the Muslim Center of Tidewater.
Herring told WAVY.com that Virginia has seen a 64 percent increase in hate crimes since 2013 and that 200 were reported to state police last year.
“They’re intended to strike fear in an entire group of people and to try to push them into the shadows and make them less a part of our community and that is wrong,” Herring said.
The president of the Muslim Community of Tidewater, M’hammed Abdous, welcomed Mr. Herring.
“Our community is feeling unsafe and vulnerable,” Abdous told 10 On Your Side.
He talked of feeling unwelcome and having people stare at him or make rude gestures.
“It happens in school, it happens in grocery, it happens even when you are driving if you’re at the stop sign.”
He has not been the victim of violence but he and others in the community fear it, as they’ve seen situations escalate in Charlottesville last year, or with the mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh in October.
Herring has introduced 6 bills to fight back against hate crimes.
One expands the definition of hate crime to include people with disabilities. Other bills would allow communities to ban firearms in a public space during a permitted event, and bar someone convicted of a hate crime from having a gun.
In the meantime, Abdous said the Muslim center is looking at getting a gun, that is an armed guard, after the Pittsburgh mass shooting
“Which is something we never thought about even remotely before, but now it’s the new reality.” he said.
Herring has one more roundtable scheduled for Friday in Roanoke, but says he wants to hear from anyone who has ideas on how Virginia can stop hate crimes.