University News

Western New England University Hosts Community Forum on Hate Crimes, Extremist Activities, and Bias Incidents

Published: April 10, 2017 | Categories: All News, Arts and Sciences, Law
panel of experts

The Western New England School of Law recently held a community forum on “Hate Crimes, Extremist Activities, and Bias Incidents” in western Massachusetts in the Blake Law Center. The recent presidential election and subsequent executive appointments have created a high level of uncertainty for politically marginalized groups.

Both the news media and non-profit organizations that monitor hate and bigotry have reported an increase in these incidents. While such crimes are often discussed at the national level, it is important that communities be alert to local activities that directly affect the lives of their neighbors, families, and friends. 

“Since President Obama was elected in 2008, the tone of discrimination and harassment complaints has become more angry and threatening against people of color” explained Commissioner Sunila Thomas George, Massachusetts Commission against Discrimination. “Now, the hatred and vitriol has become even more intense, both from Trump supporters and anti-Trump people, quite often related to immigrants and immigration policies.”

This gathering helped to provide accurate and current information, to reduce misinformation, and to improve collaboration among service providers. 

Springfield Police Sergeant John Delaney explained to the audience that local law enforcement officers are required to serve and protect citizen without consideration of their immigration status. “When the Springfield Police answer a 911 call, we don’t know if someone may be undocumented. 911 calls are not color coded, we are actually mandated not to ask those questions,” Delaney remarked. “Police officers are trained to serve, protect, and render aid, and to investigate crimes no matter who needs help, and we don’t ask people what their immigration status is.”

The legal forum featured representatives from government agencies, educational providers, community organizations, local law enforcement, and faith-based groups that are involved in these issues on a daily basis. The panelists discussed their perspectives on current events, and explained how interested students and community members could become involved in reducing these vile incidents. 

More photos of the Forum can be viewed here.