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AG Madigan Hosts Summit On The Spike In Hate Crimes

By aaroncynic in News on Feb 24, 2017 7:52PM

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan appears onstage beside Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle at the Chicago Women's March in January 2017. Photo by Aaron Cynic/Chicagoist.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan convened a group of civil rights leaders for a summit Thursday to address the rising spike of hate crimes in both Chicago and around the country since the election of President Donald Trump.

"We know from our own experience that the strength of our country has always been the strength of its people—and all its people," Madigan told attendees at the event at the Thompson Center.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has recorded more than 1,000 “hate incidents” since Trump’s election. In Chicago, the Council on American-Islamic Relations has recorded 175 in just the last two months. CAIR recorded 400 in 2016.

Muslim, Jewish, LGBTQ, immigrant and other marginalized groups have faced increased harassment in the past few months. Local college and high school campuses have been targets for racist and nazi propaganda, two Illinois Jewish community centers - one in Hyde Park and one in suburban Lake Zurich - have received bomb threats, a church in Pilsen was repeatedly vandalized with white supremacist graffiti, and a downtown synagogue had its windows smashed and was defaced with swastika stickers.

"Our community is on high alert, as you can imagine, based on these incidents," Jane Charney, director of domestic affairs at the Jewish Community Relations Council, told the Tribune. "But it has also shown tremendous resilience.”

“We just had active-shooter training at our office, because we also realize that we have to keep our people safe,” Kim Fountain, chief operating officer of Center on Halsted, told the Sun-Times. “It scared a lot of our staff, but we had to do it.”

The summit coincided with President Trump’s decision to rescind the Obama administration’s guidelines allowing transgender students to use bathrooms of their preferred gender identity. Madigan criticized the move and said in a press release her and her office were committed to defending trans students using current Illinois anti-discrimination statutes.

“Schools have an obligation to provide a safe and inclusive environment for all students, including transgender students,” she said. “Today’s actions by the federal government harm our students by creating unnecessary fear and confusion about the protections provided by Title IX.”

The Attorney General also championed new legislation in Springfield proposed by Rep. Litesa Wallace which allows victims of hate crimes to file civil cases, including in instances of cyber-stalking and online harassment. HB3711 would:

“Provide that independent of any criminal prosecution or the result of a criminal prosecution, any person suffering intimidation, stalking, cyberstalking, disorderly conduct, transmission of obscene messages, harassment by telephone, or harassment through electronic communications may bring a civil action for damages, injunction or other appropriate relief.”

“It’s not just among kids anymore,” Madigan said of online harassment. “It’s equal opportunity on the internet. It’s a very high volume of the complaints we get.”