Commentary: The Problem of Local Hate Crimes Echoes The National Rise

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Woodland, CA – Let me start by giving some praise to Yolo Chief Deputy DA Jonathan Raven who did an excellent job of explaining, two weeks ago, hate crimes and the difference between a hate crime and a hate incident.

He noted, “It’s a very fine line often between what is a hate crime and what is a hate incident.”

From the DA’s standpoint, “A hate crime is a crime. You have to have a crime. And then on top of that, you have a biased motivation behind the crime.”

Raven added, “One of the things about hate crimes is they’re much different than other crimes. They’re message crimes. Hate crimes are not only meant to harm the individual that’s been physically or emotionally, victimized, but also to send a message to the whole community.”

Raven also clarified an important misconception – white people can be the victims of a hate crime.  While most hate crimes are not directed toward white people – a sizable percentage, in some cases up to a quarter of prosecuted hate crimes, the victim is in fact white.

Raven clarified the law with respect to protected classes—disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation.

Raven explained, “I’ve had some people say that white males are not a protected class. Yes, they are. They are white and they are male. Doesn’t matter if some, if a certain class makes up the majority of that community. Everyone, every gender, every race, religion, they’re all protected classes.”

Nancy Appel from ADL further explained the distinction between a hate incident and a hate crime.

“The term hate incident is a term of art with a distinct meaning…  it is distinct from a hate crime in that it is behavior or expression that is motivated by hate or bias by any of the characteristics that we reviewed. But the underlying activity itself does not constitute a crime. So it does not violate the penal code and therefore no law enforcement… can make an arrest or press any charges.”

She added that “this most often takes the form of speech, which is very broadly protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution.”

“There is no law per se, against hate,” Appel explained.  “So you can be a bigot, you can be a hateful person, you can harbor these thoughts, and in many ways you can express these thoughts.”

This was really important because over the years, there have been a ton of misconceptions over the law with respect to hate crimes and also the difference between a hate crime and a hate incident.

Where I think the conversation hosted by the DA fell short is the next portion.

Appel called the rise of hate crime, especially against the Jewish community, “meteoric.”

“It’s almost unprecedented,” Appel said. “We are seeing numbers at record levels, going back to the year or so after 9/11.”

There are two main problems that I see: why is there a rise in hate crimes and hate incidents and what can we do about it.

In August, for instance, there was a banner unfurled over Highway 113 – similar to banner drops elsewhere.  The banner appeared to be associated with Holocaust denial and other right wing extremist groups.

These are groups that have been empowered by former President Donald Trump and his continued refusal to call them out.

This fall we also saw a rise in the number of incidents where groups like the Proud Boys have come to public meetings and counter-demonstrated at local events.

A right group, Turning Point USA came to speak at UC Davis, that brought out about 100 protesters and they were met with members of the Proud Boys.

The Proud Boys of course were not present on the local stage until relatively recently.  According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, while they “adamantly deny any connection to the racist “alt-right,”” their actions “belie their disavowals of bigotry.”

Notes the SPLC: “Rank-and-file Proud Boys and leaders regularly spout white nationalist memes and maintain affiliations with known extremists. They are known for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric. Proud Boys have appeared alongside other hate groups at extremist gatherings such as the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.”

The mainstream national media has of course focused on Ye (aka Kanye West) and white supremacist leader Nicholas Fuentes who recently dined with Former President Donald Trump.  But on a local level, many critics believe that the role of the alt-right locally in inciting these incidents has been largely ignored by local media.

A second problem is: what are we going to do about it?

The DA of course can prosecute hate crimes.

Even when it is a hate crime that can be difficult as Raven noted, “in order for the DA to prosecute and to have a path towards successful prosecution and to ethically charge the case, as I mentioned, we have to be able to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt in order to charge it.”

But much of this is not criminal conduct.  As Nancy Appel put it, “it’s lawful but awful.”  She explained, “It’s terrible speech, but it is nonetheless not punishable by our laws.”

“Just because the activity might not be unlawful or criminal does not mean it does not still cause a tremendous amount of emotional harm to the targets of that speech, and that it is not still incumbent upon our community leaders, and law enforcement to the extent possible, to speak out against it,” Appel said.

That’s really the problem.  While it’s important to speak out against hate incidents and UC Davis, the City Council and law enforcement have been quick to do so.

The problem is that the rise of hate crimes and such incidents locally indicates that the people involved feel empowered by the national stage and that’s the tricky thing, but unfortunately this was not discussed nearly enough by either the ADL or the DA’s office at the townhall.

Until we can find an effective way to deal with that environment – this problem is only going to get worse.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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12 Comments

  1. Robb Davis

    Thanks, David, for your coverage of this issue.  I, too, appreciate the forum that the DA put on and believe more discussion of these issues is critical. At my job at UC Davis, I focus on first amendment issues every day, and I do see confusion about the concepts of hate speech, hate incidents, hate crime, and harassment.  The articles David has run on the DA forum lay out the distinctions between some of these terms, and they are a valuable resource.  Much appreciated.

    On another topic: RIP to my friend and “teacher” Bill Marshall.  I will miss you, Bill.

  2. Ron Glick

    My only criticism is that Raven should have said if the D.A.’s office believes it can make a case against a hate crime, however difficult, it will not hesitate to prosecute. Otherwise I’m glad the D.A. is making it clear that they are concerned. It is heartening that our local leaders at all levels are speaking out against hate.

  3. Ron Oertel

    These are groups that have been empowered by former President Donald Trump and his continued refusal to call them out.

    How long has this guy been out of office, now?

    Does anyone honestly question whether or not the focus on hate crimes is driven by politics? Including local political campaigns (e.g., DA races)?

    Hate crimes are totally-dwarfed (to a degree that’s nowhere close to) everyday crimes, including murders and assaults across this country every single day.  Apparently, there’s not much political traction that can be gained by focusing on that. Though there is a racial component/factor behind many of those crimes, as well.

    Oh, wait – there is also a political focus on those type of crimes, in that some believe those who engage in them should be freed due to “mass incarceration” concerns.

    The folks who believe the latter have never made clear “who” should be in prison, among these two groups. Seems like they want to incarcerate the former, but not the latter.

    1. Ron Glick

      “How long has this guy been out of office, now?”

      Donald Trump is the Prometheus of hate. It was always there but he let it out of the bottle and now its going to take time to get it back under control. By the way this was totally predictable and why I opposed Trump from the beginning of him coming down that escalator.

  4. Ron Oertel

    From article, above: Appel called the rise of hate crime, especially against the Jewish community, “meteoric.”
    “It’s almost unprecedented,” Appel said. “We are seeing numbers at record levels, going back to the year or so after 9/11.”

    By the way, what exactly is “incorrect” or “hateful” regarding Whoopi Goldberg’s comments, below?

    In a new interview with The Sunday Times of London, shared during Hanukkah, Goldberg suggested Jews are divided about whether they are a race, religion or both. 

    My best friend said, ‘Not for nothing is there no box on the census for the Jewish race. So that leads me to believe that we’re probably not a race,’ ” she recalled.

    Goldberg added, “It doesn’t change the fact that you could not tell a Jew on a street. You could find me. You couldn’t find them.”

    https://www.usatoday.com/story/entertainment/celebrities/2022/12/26/whoopi-goldberg-new-comments-holocaust-the-view-backlash/10953107002/

    And if you can’t “find them” (as Goldberg put it), how is it that the ADL representative (Appel) is claiming a “meteoric rise” in hate crimes against them?

  5. Ron Oertel

    The problem is that the rise of hate crimes and such incidents locally indicates that the people involved feel empowered by the national stage and that’s the tricky thing, but unfortunately this was not discussed nearly enough by either the ADL or the DA’s office at the townhall.

    They’re “empowered” when people pay attention to them – especially when “officials” do so. That’s exactly what they’re seeking.

    Until we can find an effective way to deal with that environment – this problem is only going to get worse.

    What “environment”?  Maybe 2-3 people engaging in hanging banners?  Who probably traveled to that overpass from somewhere else in the first place?

    The “environment” is created by reacting to them, and by exaggerating their size and impact.  That’s where the “environment” lives and is fostered. (Again, this is partly PURPOSEFUL, driven by politics and virtue-signaling – demanded from and expected from “officials”.)

    Not once have I ever encountered someone espousing those type of views, other than on an overpass.

  6. Alan Hirsch

    In Davis, an environment of hate (and fear) against Jews, Asians, blacks activist, LGBTQ, immigrants is a normalization by Fox cable news. This is reinforced by social media and other righting media like NewMax.

    We are not powerless.  Why is acceptable in Davis to do businesses who advertise on Fox cable? Why do Davis groceries stock item from those companies?

    Silence is acceptance about those pumping hate into Davis.

     

     

    1. Ron Oertel

      In Davis, an environment of hate (and fear) against Jews, Asians, blacks activist, LGBTQ, immigrants is a normalization by Fox cable news. This is reinforced by social media and other righting media like NewMax.

      “Just” in Davis?  I don’t know what NewMax is, but Fox is a national outlet.

      Besides, I thought the claim is that this is all “Trump’s fault”?

      Gee, “who” is left out of that group, by the way?  The implied “perpetrators” of hate?  (White people?)  What do you think the impact of this type of belief is, in regard to “hate”?

      And you believe, for example, that the majority of UCD students (who are Asian) are walking around in fear? Really?

      Same with any Jewish people? They’re all just cowering and low-profile, for fear that someone might identify them as Jewish?

      We are not powerless.  Why is acceptable in Davis to do businesses who advertise on Fox cable? Why do Davis groceries stock item from those companies?

      Are there any Davis-based businesses which advertise of Fox cable?

      And you’re suggesting to watch Fox news, for the purpose of boycotting any national companies which advertise on there? Good luck with that effort.

      Silence is acceptance about those pumping hate into Davis.

      I suspect the opposite is true.

       

      1. David Greenwald

        ” I don’t know what NewMax is, but Fox is a national outlet.”

        You don’t know what NewsMax is? You also apparently don’t know that you purchase advertising on local cable and it’s relatively inexpensive.

        1. Ron Oertel

          I don’t subscribe to cable TV.

          In any case, look at the bold text I included in my response to Alan H, as repeated below.  This is the type of thing that is actually creating “white supremacists”.  (Well that, plus the attention they receive.)

          Gee, “who” is left out of that group, by the way?  The implied “perpetrators” of hate?  (White people?)  What do you think the impact of this type of belief is, in regard to “hate”?

          You can’t single out a group like this, and expect those who take offense at it to just accept it.  And then claim that they’re the ones instigating hate.

          This type of thing might “fly” in Davis, but not across other parts of the state and country.

          This also gives rise to folks like Trump.

          1. David Greenwald

            “I don’t subscribe to cable TV.”

            Then maybe you would have been better off letting the comment pass.

        2. Ron Oertel

          Then maybe you would have been better off letting the comment pass.

          Why?  All I said is that I don’t know what it is, in passing.  I assumed that it’s something like Fox, since it was lumped-together with it.

          That’s the part of my comment you want to focus on?  Really?

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