Silicon Valley lawmakers announce proposals for action against hate crimes
Councilmember Maya Esparza, center, announced a proposal for a regional Hate Crime Task Force to address local instances of violence. Photo by Katie Lauer.

Proposals to address local hate crimes at both city and county levels were announced at San Jose City Hall Wednesday afternoon.

Led by San Jose Councilmember Maya Esparza and Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, the proposals call for implementing a regional Hate Crimes Task Force to address local hate crime and hate speech, especially in response to recent mass shootings across the country.

“This is white supremacist, domestic terrorism,” Esparza said. “These domestic terrorists are emboldened by the rhetoric that we see from our national political leaders … I think we’re seeing some of that rhetoric come home to roost two years later, and it’s the sort of national progression from that kind of speech and frankly, incitement.”

The proposed time-limited task force would look at the pathology of hate crimes that can lead to prevention and recommend school-based programs to promote positive change in the community culture of hate and violence. It would also develop recommendations to counter the illegal gun trade and employ existing laws to currently protect those affected, namely women, immigrants and local Latino communities.

Brought to the City Clerk’s office today, Esparza’s proposal will be on next Wednesday’s Rules and Open Government meeting agenda.

Amid this hostile political climate and mass shootings, including the Gilroy Garlic Festival where Esparza’s 6-year-old cousin Stephen Romero was killed, the lawmaker said the timing is more important than ever.

“There is a lot of fear in our communities of color, in our immigrant communities, our LGBT communities, and all our communities that know firsthand the trauma of hate,” Esparza said. “We cannot wait any longer for our dysfunctional federal government to take action. It must be our responsibility as local governments to take every measure possible to protect our community and address the root causes.”

Councilmembers Magdalena Carrasco, Sylvia Arenas and Pam Foley were also signing members of the proposal.

Carrasco spoke about how statistics released by the FBI showed that there were 7,176 hate crimes in the United States in 2017, an increase of 17 percent compared to 2016.

Councilmember Carrasco, right, cited FBI statistics stating there were 7,176 hate crimes in the US in 2017. Photo by Katie Lauer.

“Of the crimes motivated by hatred over race or ethnicity, nearly half involved African Americans and 11 percent were anti-Hispanic,” Carrasco said. “We know these aren’t incidents outside of our community. We must give hope to our families so they have a voice in our policies, and that we are all acting together to end this disease of hate that has spread throughout our nation.”

But this isn’t the only local proposal in the pipeline. San Jose Councilmember Sergio Jimenez called on the San Jose Police Department to report to the City Council statistics of hate crime trends in San Jose from the past five years, as well as the department’s current efforts to prevent future acts of violence.

Combined with supporting Santa Clara County’s efforts, Jimenez’s goal is to address ongoing safety concerns, akin to the recent mass shootings, in community-wide action and discussion.

“We live in one of the most diverse parts of our nation, and, given the hateful rhetoric that spews from the White House, we must look at every possible solution to prevent further attacks on the diverse communities within our City,” Jimenez said. “We must show those currently emboldened by the normalization of such acts that San Jose is a welcoming, inclusive city that values and protects all its residents.”

Jimenez’s proposal was unanimously passed by the Rules and Open Government Committee on Wednesday and will head to the full City Council.

Contact Katie Lauer at klauer77@gmail.com or follow @klauer77 on Twitter.

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