Attorney General Merrick B. Garland announced Thursday during the White House United We Stand Summit that over the next year, all 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices (USAOs) will host a new nationwide initiative to combat unlawful acts of hate. The United Against Hate program is convening local forums that connect community groups to federal, state, and local law enforcement to increase community understanding and reporting of hate crimes; build trust between law enforcement and communities; and create and strengthen alliances between law enforcement and other government partners and community groups to combat unlawful acts of hate.
“The Justice Department remains committed to enforcing federal hate crime laws,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “That is why the Justice Department has launched its new United Against Hate program. This initiative brings together community groups, community leaders, and law enforcement at every level to build trust and strengthen coordination to combat unlawful acts of hate.”
The first cohort of 16 USAOs rolling out United Against Hate programs this fall includes the following districts: Arizona, Central District of California, Eastern District of California, Connecticut, Idaho, Middle District of Louisiana, Southern District of New York, Western District of New York, Southern District of Ohio, Middle District of Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Southern District of Texas, Eastern District of Virginia, Vermont, Western District of Washington, and Western District of Wisconsin. The Department will expand the United Against Hate program to all 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices next year.
“U.S. Attorneys are critical partners in the Justice Department’s efforts to respond to hate crimes in communities across our country,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The stronger the ties between communities and law enforcement, the more faith that communities will have that their allegations will be investigated and taken seriously. This moment requires an all-hands-on-deck strategy to fully confront unlawful acts of hate. The United Against Hate program brings together the vast network of civil rights, government, faith, and community-based leaders needed to improve reporting, promote prevention strategies and build the resilience needed to confront hate crimes and incidents.”
“To effectively reduce hate crimes at the local level, it’s important to garner community buy-in,” said Director Monty Wilkinson of the Justice Department’s Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys (EOUSA). “That means building relationships with community leaders and residents, listening to their description of their community’s needs and priorities, and then effectively communicating how USAOs and other Justice Department efforts can address those issues and help to increase public safety. This program will build bridges among community members and law enforcement, helping them to work together to combat unlawful acts of hate.”
Through using hypothetical scenarios and video clips depicting real-life hate crime cases and stories, United Against Hate promotes robust interaction between community members and law enforcement participants. Program topics include: defining hate crimes versus hate incidents; the importance of reporting unlawful acts of hate; providing options for responding to hate incidents when situations do not constitute a federal or state crime; and distinguishing unlawful conduct from protected First Amendment activity, including identifying protected speech versus speech that advocates violence or encourages people to commit hate crimes.
The launch follows a successful pilot of the program last spring by three USAOs — New Jersey, Massachusetts, and the Eastern District of Washington. Attorney General Garland announced the conclusion of the pilot for the United Against Hate program at a Justice Department event in May commemorating the one-year anniversary of the Attorney General’s memorandum on improving the Department’s efforts to combat unlawful acts of hate and the enactment of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes and Khalid Jabara-Heather Heyer NO HATE Acts.
Development of the United Against Hate program was led by the Civil Rights Division. EOUSA and other components in the Department’s Hate Crimes Enforcement and Prevention Initiative, including the Community Relations Service, the Community Oriented Policing Services Office, the FBI, and the Office of Justice Programs, provided critical assistance in developing the program.