Concerned Hoosiers advocate for Indiana hate crime law in wake of threats to Indianapolis JCC

INDIANAPOLIS – Following a second bomb threat to the Indianapolis Jewish Community Center, a group of concerned Hoosiers gathered at the Statehouse Wednesday to advocate for a hate crime law in Indiana.

The group, comprised of several individuals from various ethnic backgrounds, has been working together for the past two years to share why they believe such a law is needed in the state.

A hate crime law would allow judges to impose tougher sentences for crimes motivated by race, religion, sex, disability, gender identity or sexual orientation.

Indiana is one of five states without a hate crime law including Georgia, South Carolina, Arkansas and Wyoming.

The latest hate crime bill failed to move forward Feb. 27, the same day the Indianapolis Jewish Community Center received its first bomb threat. A second was received on March 12.

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“A crime that is motivated by bias because of an individual’s race, because of an individual’s sexual orientation, is not just a crime against that individual victim. It is a crime against an entire community,” said Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry. “The perpetrator of that crime is sending a signal to that community that they are not welcome, that they are not wanted.”

State senators said there wasn’t enough support to push the bill forward. Opponents said hate crime laws create special protected classes that treat victims of similar crimes differently.

“Anyone who would suggest we are not currently in a climate in which that sort of conduct is occurring, has their head in the sand,” said Curry. “Ultimately, the bias crime and the hate crime provision protects everyone. We all have a race. We all have a sexual orientation. We all have a gender."

Similar bills have also failed in the past.

"It's not for a group of individuals. It's for our entire state," said Rep. Greg Porter (D-District 96), who proposed the bill. "Being one of five states that doesn't have one … what kind of message are we continuing to send?"

Following the 2016 presidential election, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported an uptick in harassment and intimidation cases around the country.

Racist graffiti popped up on walking trails and on churches in four different Indiana cities including Bloomington, South Bend, Indianapolis and Bean Blossom.

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The Associated Press reported “anti-white incidents remain a smaller percentage of overall hate crimes. Anti-black hate crimes are still the largest number of cases.”

MORE | Hate crimes: Small percentage target whites, federal data shows

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are 26 hate groups in Indiana:

Traditionalist Worker Party - Columbus, Indiana

American Vikings - Indianapolis, Indiana

Ku Klos Knights of the Ku Klux Klan - Muncie, Indiana

Nation of Islam - Indianapolis, Indiana

Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge - Indianapolis, Indiana

Ku Klos Knights of the Ku Klux Klan - Indianapolis, Indiana

The Daily Stormer - Indianapolis, Indiana

Confederate White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan - Madison, Indiana

Sons & Daughters of Liberty - Indiana (statewide)

Firm 22 - Indiana (statewide)

American Freedom Party - Indiana

Vinlanders Social Club - Indiana (statewide)

Ku Klos Knights of the Ku Klux Klan - Indiana (statewide)

Blood and Honour Social Club - Indiana (statewide)

Soldiers of Odin - Indiana (statewide)

Gallows Tree Wotansvolk Alliance - Indiana (statewide)

United Dixie White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan - Indiana (statewide)

Traditionalist Youth Network - Bloomington, Indiana

Ku Klos Knights of the Ku Klux Klan - Kokomo, Indiana

Traditionalist Worker Party - Paoli, Indiana

Traditionalist Youth Network -  Paoli, Indiana

WTM Enterprises - Roanoke, Indiana

Campus Ministry USA, The - Terre Haute, Indiana



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