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Bills Aimed At Protecting Virginians From Hate Crimes, Stall In Committee

Senate Republicans in Virginia effectively killed two bills Monday morning that are part of Attorney General Mark Herring’s anti-hate crimes legislation package.

One bill takes aim at paramilitary or militia activity, making it a felony to gather in a group, carrying weapons, with the intent of intimidating a group or person. The legislation was redirected to a finance committee, where it will likely be killed.

The Chief Patron, Senator Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) told members of the Senate, the bill would help prevent the type of violence perpetrated by groups in Charlottesville, during the Unite the Right rally in 2017.

“They were operating as unregulated, uncontrolled, unaccountable, self-appointed, so-called security forces,” Lucas said. “Their appearance and the power of their weapons greatly increased the likelihood, of greater violence.”

Another proposal, backed by the Attorney General was to change the definition of hate crimes in Virginia law to add women, people with disabilities, and LGBT people. That bill was defeated along party lines, without discussion.

“At a time when communities in Virginia and around the country are confronting a rise in hate crimes and hateful rhetoric, the General Assembly has sent a clear message to those who feel vulnerable to hate and mistreatment that they will not take the measures needed to protect them,” said Attorney General Mark Herring.

A report from the Virginia State Police, shows hate crimes increased in the Commonwealth nearly 50% from 2016 to 2017.

Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.
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