The Indiana Black Legislative Caucus is renouncing the racial hatred and violence that erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend and renewing its push for hate crime legislation in the state.
IBLC Chair Cherrish Pryor, D-Indianapolis, released a statement Tuesday labeling the violence as domestic terrorism that caused the death of one woman, two police officers and injured 35 others. She decried the white supremacists and alt-right protesters as coming armed and seeking violence.
She also pointed out that had the incident occurred in Indiana, the state would not be able to charge any of the protesters with a hate crime. The Hoosier state is one of five that does not have any bias-crime statute.
“What took place with the killing of a young woman by a white supremacist car driver and the attacks by other white supremacists should also be called bias or hate crimes,” Pryor stated. “However, it would not be officially acknowledged as such in our own state of Indiana, one of only five states where bias/hate crimes are not recognized as the law of the land.”
In both the 2016 and 2017 General Assembly sessions, Indiana Republican and Democratic legislators introduced six hate crime bills. However, none got through to the governor’s desk despite bipartisan support and efforts from a broad coalition of non-legislative organizations.
At the start of the 2016 legislative session, the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council, joined by the Indianapolis Urban League and Marion Court Prosecutor Terry Curry, advocated for a hate crime law. They said it would send a strong message that the state will not tolerate acts meant to intimidate and harass members of a group because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, or other characteristics.
Pryor said the IBLC would again be offering bias/hate crime legislation and invited all elected officials to join in helping get a bill passed.
“Every year, our efforts in passing a bias/hate crimes bill are crushed by those who see no need for such protections of the innocent,” Pryor said. “A bias/hate crimes bill sends a clear message to those who seek violence and destruction against those whom they hate. A bias/hate crimes law would say in a loud and clear voice that Indiana will not stand for bigotry and intolerance and that we will protect all the citizens of our states, regardless of who they are.”