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Archive for the ‘hate crimes’ Category

Column: In celebration of hate crime law

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

From McClatchy-Tribune News Service in the Baltimore Sun:

Kathi Wolfe, who identifies herself as a legally blind lesbian, says the president should be praised for signing the hate crime bill, which enlarges the definition of federal hate crimes to include those involving sexual orientation, gender or disability.

Wolfe rejects claims that the law will inhibit free speech, and says bias will only be prosecuted when accompanied by a violent act.

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act won’t end bias-based crimes. But it will put everyone on notice that such crimes will not be tolerated.

And for those of us who are vulnerable, it makes us a little less fearful today than we were yesterday.

That’s something that all Americans should celebrate.

Kathi Wolfe is a poet and writer for Progressive Media Project.

UK charity: 9 percent of disabled people say they’re crime targets

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

From the [UK] Guardian:

In response to a survey by a UK disability charity, 9 percent of respondents with disabilities reported that they have been the victim of a hate crime. The charity, Leonard Cheshire Disability, asked respondents whether they had faced a crime which they felt was motivated by their disability.

The charity said it decided to add the question after high-profile incidents in which disabled people had been targeted, most notably the case of Fiona Pilkington and her 18-year-old daughter, Francecca. Pilkington killed herself and her daughter after enduring years of abuse at the hands of local toughs. An inquest jury in September criticized local law enforcement authorities for failing to respond to her repeated pleas for help.

Some 42 percent of respondents also said they believed they had been turned down for a job because of their disability, a rise of seven percentage points from 2008, while more than half felt they had been discriminated against in a place of work. The data was based on responses from 1,253 people.

Obama signs hate crimes bill

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

From AP, CNN (with video), the Washington Post and elsewhere. Transcript from the White House blog:

President Obama signed hate crime legislation Wednesday that extends protections to people based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability. From the transcript of the President’s remarks:

No one in America should be forced to look over their shoulder because of who they are or because they live with a disability.

At root, this isn’t just about our laws; this is about who we are as a people. This is about whether we value one another — whether we embrace our differences, rather than allowing them to become a source of animus.

Congress expands hate crime protections to include disabilities

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

From the Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg, AP/Washington Post:

Congress yesterday approved a major expansion of federal hate crime law to include penalties for assaults motivated by a victim’s sexual orientation, gender, disability or gender identity. The president is expected to sign it.

The 68-29 vote was seen as a victory for civil rights groups. Attorney General Eric Holder said the measure was “a milestone in helping protect Americans from the most heinous bias-motivated violence.”

Earlier posts here and here.

Fifth suspect convicted in kidnap, torture of disabled man

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

From the [Minneapolis-St. Paul] Star Tribune:

A fifth and final suspect has been convicted in last year’s kidnapping and torture of a man with disabilities in rural Minnesota. Twenty-two year-old Jonathan M. Diepold was convicted of six violent crimes and a misdemeanor in the attack on Justin Hamilton 25, who has fetal alcohol syndrome. Prosecutors are seeking a sentence of at least eight years in prison.

Carolyn Hamilton, Justin’s mother, says her once happy-go-lucky son has emotional scars that will never go away.

A year later, he not only has nightmares but also day terrors when he recalls smelling gasoline and hearing them discuss whether they would set him on fire, before he passed out, Carolyn Hamilton said.

… “Justin will have a lot to deal with for a long time after they’ve finished their prison sentences,” she said.

Earlier posts here.

Hate crime law may soon cover people with disabilities

Friday, October 9th, 2009

From the New York Times, AP/Washington Post, Los Angeles Times:

Over the objections of Republicans, the House Thursday voted to broaden the federal hate-crime law to prohibit violence against people because of their disability, sexual orientation, gender or affiliation with the military.

The measure, which now goes to the Senate, was attached to a $680 billion defense spending bill that includes a pay hike for members of the military. Similar hate crime legislation had faced a veto threat from former president George Bush, but  President Obama has promised to sign it.

“No American should ever have to suffer persecution or violence because of who they are, how they look, or what they believe,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Passage of the legislation would mark the first major expansion to law enacted after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. Existing federal law defines hate crimes as those motivated by bias based on race, color, religion or national origin.

Democrats hailed the 281-146 vote as the culmination of an effort to curb violent attacks like the murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student who was brutally beaten, tied to a fence and left to die 11 years ago.

The vote comes just days after the release of a Justice Department report that found people with disabilities are 50 percent more likely to experience nonfatal violent crime than their peers. Women with disabilities were found to be victims at rates almost twice that for other women, and rates of rape and sexual assault were 2.7 times higher than those for the general population. Of the violent crime victims with disabilities surveyed, nearly one in five said they believed they were targeted because of their disability.

Republican opponents accused Democrats of committing legislative blackmail by attaching the measure to the defense spending bill. A number assailed the measure as “thought crimes” legislation, contending that it could lead to the prosecution of a pastor delivering sermons against homosexuality if one of his church members committed a hate crime.

Related posts here.

British inquest finds family of disabled girl was hounded to death

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

From Associated Press, [UK] Telegraph and elsewhere:

A British inquest jury ruled this week that years of abuse and terror at the hands of neighborhood toughs had led a despairing single mother to kill herself and her 18-year-old disabled daughter, and that police inaction contributed to their deaths.

Fiona Pilkington had called police dozens of times and written desperate letters to her local lawmaker, but no one intervened to stop the persecution. The inquest heard testimony that a local gang of youths repeatedly urinated on Pilkington’s home, pushed excrement through her mailbox, smashed her windows with stones and spattered her walls with eggs and flour.

Pilkington’s daughter Francecca, who had an intellectual disability, was mercilessly taunted. On one occasion, a mob of more than a dozen youths demanded that she lift up her dress. Her son Anthony, 19, who has dyslexia, was locked in a shed at knifepoint and, on another occasion, beaten with an iron bar, but no one was prosecuted.

Pilkington’s family said the case highlighted problems faced by parents of disabled children, and campaigners and academics said the police’s sluggishness in responding to the attacks showed that hate crimes against disabled people were often ignored.

“The failure to take seriously the ‘drip-drip’ of daily violence against some disabled people is at the heart of the Pilkington case,” said professor Alan Roulstone, who researches disability issues at De Montfort University in central England. He said that while British society had made strides toward tackling religious or racially-motivated hate crimes, disabled people were often “last on the list.”

See also:

Op-ed: We must clamp down on disability hate crime — [UK] Telegraph

Advocates say case may mark a turning point for disability hate crime — [UK] Guardian

Spotlight on disability hate crime — BBC

Column: Disabled people are often not taken seriously when they report crime — [UK] Independent

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More than 50 million people in the United States have disabilities, a number that is growing rapidly as the population ages. Experts say disability will soon affect the lives of most Americans. This website attempts to aggregate news and commentary about disability, and to document the efforts of people who are seeking new ways to address familiar challenges.

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