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Wednesday, March 16, 2022

ON THE ANNIVERSARY OF ATLANTA SPA SHOOTINGS, AG HEALEY HIGHLIGHTS RESOURCES TO ADDRESS HATE IN COMMUNITIES

ON THE ANNIVERSARY OF ATLANTA SPA SHOOTINGS, AG HEALEY HIGHLIGHTS RESOURCES TO ADDRESS HATE IN COMMUNITIES

Resources for Recognizing and Responding to Hate Include Multilingual PSA Videos with Community Partners

 

            BOSTON – On the one-year anniversary of the fatal shootings that took place at massage parlors in Atlanta, killing eight people, six of whom were of Asian descent, Attorney General Maura Healey is highlighting her office’s resources and efforts undertaken to recognize and prevent incidents of hate in communities across the state. This includes recent multilingual PSAs with members of her office’s Advisory Council on New Americans that provide information for residents who have experienced hate.


            “On the one-year anniversary of the deadly spa shooting in Atlanta targeting Asian women, coupled with an increase in hate crimes across the country, our commitment to combating hate and racist violence in all its forms is stronger than ever,” said AG Healey. “Hate and extremist incidents are not just an attack on an individual – they are attacks on families, communities, and the fabric of our country. That’s where we, as leaders, need to start: with what’s right in front of us. In Massachusetts, we are committed to doing more to protect and empower survivors and communities that have been targeted, excluded, and tragically harmed by racism; and bringing people together to rally around respect, dignity, and belonging.”

 

Multilingual PSA Videos

As part of her office’s ongoing work to address the rise of hate in Massachusetts, the AG’s Office recently partnered with members of her office’s Advisory Council on New Americans to create multilingual video PSAs – currently available in Spanish, Portuguese, Vietnamese, and Russian, with incoming PSAs in Chinese and other languages – that provide information for residents who have experienced hate or want to know how to address it.

“We’ve seen first-hand the emotional and physical damage that hate-based slurs and violence can do to our communities,” said Anh Vu Sawyer, Executive Director, The Southeast Asian Coalition of Massachusetts. “We are grateful for our work with the Attorney General’s Office to provide accessible resources for our residents so they feel valued and respected.”  

“It’s been an honor to serve on the AG’s Advisory Council on New Americans to advocate for the safety and well-being of all immigrants and refugees in Massachusetts,” said Paulo Pinto, Executive Director, Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers (MAPS).   “We are pleased to continue this partnership to ensure that there is no place for hate crimes in our state and urge anyone who has experienced hate to contact the AG’s Office or our MAPS offices, so that it can be addressed right away.”

“As we continue to see incidents of hate rise across our communities, it is important that all residents are aware of their rights and where they can turn to for help,” said Patricia Sobalvarro, Executive Director, Agencia ALPHA. “We commend the Attorney General’s Office for their efforts to advocate for our residents by providing multilingual resources and look forward to our continued partnership in addressing these rising concerns in our communities.”

“All forms of hate, intolerance, and bias have no place in Massachusetts,” said Natasha Soolkin, Executive Director, The New American Association of MA. “Through our partnership with the Attorney General’s Office, we’ve been able to further educate our communities about their rights and ensure that they feel empowered and safe.”

 

Community Convening

             In October, AG Healey partnered with Lawyers for Civil Rights, the Anti-Defamation League of New England, NAACP Boston Branch, and Greater Boston Legal Services’ Asian Outreach Unit, to host a “Virtual Convening on Addressing Hate in our Communities”. The event, which drew hundreds of mayors, town managers, city councilors, school leaders, elected officials, members of law enforcement, and representatives from advocacy organizations, featured a panel discussion with local civil rights leaders about the rise of hate and extremism, and a presentation from the AG’s Civil Rights Division on enforcement options and resources available to victims and communities. The event can be viewed on the AG’s Facebook page.

Dedicated Resource Website and Flyers

The AG’s Office also has a dedicated website to addressing hate in our communities, with information for victims as well as resources regarding how to prevent, address, and report hate incidents. The site includes multilingual flyers (available in EnglishSpanishPortugueseMandarin, and Haitian Creole) with information on the civil and criminal laws that protect residents from hate, tips on what to do if one experiences hate, and how to report such experiences.

Most hate crimes are prosecuted by the local District Attorney’s Office. However, in some cases, the offender may also be prosecuted civilly, either in addition to criminal charges or instead of criminal charges, by the AG’s Office under the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act (MCRA).

The MCRA protects the rights of all residents and visitors to Massachusetts to be free from bias-motivated threats, intimidation, and coercion. The MCRA protects the right to use public parks and transportation, walk on public streets, attend school, live peacefully, and enjoy other basic rights. Under the MCRA, the Attorney General may bring legal action against a perpetrator who threatens, intimidates, or coerces another person on the basis of that person’s membership in a protected group (e.g., race, national origin, religion, age, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability) or protected activity (e.g., exercising the right to vote or the right to associate).

 

Addressing Hate in Schools

The AG’s Office has made it a priority to protect students from hate and is engaging with school leaders when incidents of hate and bias occur. In 2020, AG Healey issued guidance to school officials on their legal obligations and best practices to prevent and address incidents of hate and bias at their institutions. 

 

The AG’s Office is in the process of working with educational leadership across the state on initiatives to address and prevent hate in school and extracurricular settings.

 

Federal and State Legislative Advocacy

 

AG Healey is also advocating for stronger hate crime laws at the local and federal levels. In 2021, AG Healey partnered with Senator Adam Hinds and Representative Tram Nguyen to file SD972 and HD1653, An Act to reform hate crime statutes, which aims to rework the state’s two seldom-used hate crime statutes to better reflect their purpose – to charge individuals who target a person based on their membership in a protected class.

AG Healey also joined a bipartisan coalition of 35 attorneys general in calling on Congress to pass the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act, to provide state and local governments and law enforcement agencies the tools and resources to understand, identify, and report hate crimes to help prevent them. In April 2021, the Act was approved as part of the bill packaged underneath the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, aimed at bolstering efforts to combat rising anti-Asian hate and rhetoric during the pandemic.

To report a hate crime, residents should contact their local police department. In addition, they can also report hate incidents, hate crimes, or civil rights violations to the Attorney General’s Office using the Hate Crimes Hotline at 1-800-994-3228 or file a civil rights complaint online through the AG’s Civil Rights Division.


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