Hate Crime Panel Hosted by NAACP


LH Staff

Art by Estie Dillard.

Badra Kalil and Alison Kenaston

On April 10, a panel discussion focusing on hate crimes took place at the Old Capitol. Panelists members from the departments Iowa City Police Department, University of Iowa Department of Public Safety, FBI, Johnson County Attorney’s Office and the NAACP.

Mayor Jim Throgmorton started off the panel with a few opening remarks addressing recent events involving hate crimes.

“White supremacy flyers being distributed in our neighborhoods. White power stickers on buildings downtown. A derogatory word placed on various structures. A local business man asking a Muslim customer questions and more recently a social media post threatening harm to Muslims,’ Throgmorton said. He went on to explain that communities need to know how to distinguish between freedom of speech and hate crimes.

Representing the Johnson County Attorney’s Office was Janet Lyness, who touched upon the four categories of hate crimes. She mentioned assault against people targeting race, gender and sexuality, arisen against protected classification, criminal mischief and trespassing, and causing damage targeting gender, race or sexuality. Another thing that Lyness touched upon was damage of religious property. Lyness explains that it is difficult to determine if someone is just damaging the property or is damaging because they dislike the religion.

Later on during the panel, the conversation shifted towards what legally counts as assault, and what to do if you witness or are a victim of a hate crime. Law enforcement official Scott Beckner stressed the importance of reporting a hate crime immediately.

“Leaving the [offending item] there causes it to fester,” Beckner said. “Taking pictures of it and putting it on FaceBook doesn’t do any good.”

“The vision of the NAACP is to ensure a society in which all individuals have equal rights,” said Kevin Sanders, the president of the NAACP. Sanders walked through the steps to take if you believe you have been assaulted.

If you have witnessed or are a victim of a hate crime, call 911 immediately and report the incident.