We Cannot Tolerate Hate Crimes

September 7, 2017

Rep. Cathy Abercrombie presents CT General Assembly Citation to Sierra Reynolds.

I was honored to present an official Connecticut General Assembly Citation to Sierra Reynolds in recognition of her achievement in winning the Spirit of Meriden Award for keeping our community a safe and supportive place to live.

By taking an act of hate and turning it into a peace sign, Sierra demonstrated her resolve to make the world a better place.

Sierra, a 2017 graduate of Orville H. Platt High School who now attends Eastern Connecticut State University, was on a spring walk when she found a Nazi swastika painted on a tree.

Instead of ignoring it, she decided to turn the symbol of hate and intolerance into a message of love and acceptance of others by painting over it with a new image – the international symbol of peace.

Thank you, Sierra, for doing your part to keep Meriden an all-inclusive community.

In these troubled times, we need more acts of kindness and understanding like Sierra’s.

In the past couple of years, we have seen a wave of hate crimes, including the shooting at the Baitul Aman mosque in South Meriden, and other incidents in Connecticut as well across the country.

National crime statistics compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center

The crimes include murders, assaults, bomb threats and vandalism, which have been directed against African-Americans, Hindu-Americans, Hispanics, Jews, Muslims, Sikh-Americans, transgender women and others.

The Jewish Community Center in West Hartford received a bomb threat, as well as the Hebrew High School of New England across the street. Gravestones were destroyed at the Zion Hill Cemetery in Hartford. ‘Make America White Again’ fliers have been scattered in Norwalk.

In New Milford, hateful graffiti depicting a racial epithet and a swastika was spray-painted across the front of a restaurant.

Earlier this year, there were Nazi symbols painted in Danbury, threats against Jewish Community Centers in Woodbridge and East Hartford, as well as a racial epithet spray-painted on the garage of a Stamford family.

National crime statistics compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center

To dissuade people from further hateful acts, I was proud to support and vote for House Bill No. 5743, which makes the commission of a hate crime a felony and increases potential penalties upon a conviction. The new law also makes violence and threats based on gender prosecutable as a hate crime. It also makes threats against houses of worship or other religious facilities a more serious felony charge.

This new law was supported by many in our community, and I hope it sends a clear and unmistakable message that we will not tolerate hate crimes in our state.

When someone is targeted for violence or other crimes because of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability, it is an attack on everyone in our community.

-- Cathy