Anti-Asian hate crimes in the US have dramatically increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. From robberies to assaults, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the US have struggled through serious attacks during the pandemic. Many people speculate that the cause of this spike in brutal attacks is the racist reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is difficult to pinpoint a specific fuel to this rampant fire, but considering the fact that anti-Asian hate crimes surged 145% while overall hate crime dropped 6% in 2020, it’s fair to suggest that racism may be a key factor behind these violent incidents.
To address these violent incidents, President Biden signed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act on May 20, 2021.
What Is a Hate Crime?
Before we dive deeper into what the newly-signed Hate Crimes Act means for you, it would help you to know what a hate crime is. For an offense to be a hate crime, it must be a criminal act committed, in whole or in part, because of one or more of the following actual or perceived characteristics of the victim:
- Race or ethnicity
- Sexual orientation
- The person’s association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics
As such, you cannot get charged for a hate crime if it isn’t motivated by the actual or perceived characteristics listed above. Crimes such as assault, battery, vandalism, arson, and murder could be considered hate crimes if, and only if, they are motivated by an actual or perceived characteristic listed above.
Effects of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act
Now that you know what a hate crime is, you can better understand the impacts of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act. In a remarkable 94-1 vote in the Senate, the bill covers a wide range of concerns. If successfully implemented, the Hate Crimes Act would have the following impacts:
- A designated officer or employee of the Department of Justice (DOJ) would facilitate the expedited review of hate crimes and reports of hate crimes
- The Department of Justice (DOJ) would issue guidance for state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies on establishing:
- Online hate crime reporting processes
- Collecting data disaggregated by protected characteristic (e.g., race or national origin)
- Expanding education campaigns
- The DOJ and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would issue guidance aimed at raising awareness of hate crimes during the COVID-19 (i.e., coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic
- States would receive grants to create state-run hate crimes reporting hotlines
- States and local governments would receive grants to implement the National Incident-Based Reporting System and conduct law enforcement activities or crime reduction programs to prevent, address, or respond to hate crimes
- An individual convicted of a hate crime and placed on supervised release would participate in educational classes or community service as a condition of supervised release.
As you can see, the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act would help expedite the review of hate crimes and provide state and local governments funding to help police officers better investigate, identify, and report bias-motived crimes. Since hate crimes have been significantly underreported, the bill could help law enforcement agencies be proactive in detecting and deterring hate crimes.
The DOJ commented on the recent passing of this legislation, stating, “ the Department of Justice is proud to play a role in implementing this legislation. Investigating and processing hate crimes is a top priority, deeply rooted in the department’s founding. We will use the new law to enhance the aggressive measures we are taking to combat crime motivated by bigotry and discrimination. As you can see, the bill could potentially increase the number of charges and convictions for hate crimes in the US.
What It Means for You
The DOJ put it clearly: It will step up its already aggressive measures to reduce hate crimes. State and local police officers will receive more resources and training to put suspected hate crime offenders behind bars. As such, if you are charged for a state and/or federal hate crime, you could be sentenced to months and years in prison, pay hefty fines, and be required to participate in educational classes. Not to mention, your criminal record will hold you back from personal and professional opportunities you would otherwise enjoy if you never committed a crime.
Anti-Semitic Hate Crimes in the US
Anti-Asian hate crimes are not the only racially motivated attacks we’ve seen lately.
The recent conflicts between Israel and Hamas have resulted in an increase in online and in-person incidents of antisemitism, according to preliminary data by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). ADL discovered 193 reports of antisemitic incidents in the week following the violence, compared to 131 reports from the week before. ADL conducted a Twitter analysis in the days following the outbreak of violence and revealed more than 17,000 tweets using variations of the phrase “Hitler was right” between May 7 and May 14. It has also seen obvious antisemitic behavior in anti-Israel protests in the US, such as:
- Signs that invoke the age-old antisemitic accusation that Jews are responsible for killing Jesus;
- Holocaust analogies that demonize Zionists
States such as California, New York, Florida, and Arizona are some of the many states that have seen incidents of antisemitic hate crimes during and after the violent attacks between Israel and Hamas. For instance:
- The LAPD is looking into an incident in which a group of pro-Palestinian activists beat people up at a restaurant if they said they were Jewish.
- Witnesses accused a group of targeting Jewish diners while yelling racial slurs.
- Security footage allegedly showed an Orthodox Jewish man being chased by a caravan of people waving Palestinian flags.
- Multiple incidents have been reported of pro-Palestinian activists harassing and, in some cases, attacking New Yorkers. Some of these protestors attacked Jewish people.
- One video revealed a group of men wearing colors of the Palestinian flag who were heckling people, shouting, “f*** you,” and “f*** you, you Zionist!”
- According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, a person suffered a minor burn after activists tossed two fireworks out of their vehicle.
A Jewish family from New Jersey was visiting Florida when 4 people shouted antisemitic slurs and threw garbage at them. According to the report, four males screamed at the family through the window, shouting “free Palestine, f*** the Jews, and die Jew.
A synagogue was vandalized by someone who threw a rock at the glass door.
Accused of a Hate Crime?
With all of these laws, reports, and statistics in mind, it would not be surprising if hate crime charges increased in the US. Although the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act responded mainly to the staggering increase in anti-Asian hate crimes, it targets ALL hate crimes against any race. As such, if you are accused of a hate crime, you need to equip yourself with an experienced attorney right away.
Learn how we can defend your rights and freedom when you get in touch with us online or at (510) 907-6600!