‘People dying because of hate’
MICHIGAN CITY – With chants of “We won’t forget” and “Don’t stall; fix the law,” a group of local activists gave notice to Gov. Eric Holcomb and the General Assembly on Saturday afternoon.
They want a “real” anti hate/bias crime bill in Indiana, not the one that passed the legislature last month without the list of protected classes the bill was originally designed to safeguard.
“This hate crimes bill needs to be amended,” Faye Moore, secretary of the La Porte County Chapter of the NAACP, said at a rally outside the Michigan City Courthouse. “It does not cover everyone, so we are trying to get the attention of the governor and legislators to fix it. ... People are dying because of hate.”
According to the NAACP, which organized rallies across the state, “Since the November  election, bigotry has become mainstream: White supremacists march in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, and sit in our nation’s highest offices without shame or lasting repercussion ... As a result, we’ve witnessed a dramatic spike in hate crimes motivated by racism, sexism, xenophobia and other intolerances.”
La’Tonya Troutman, spokeswoman for the local NAACP chapter, gave some sobering statistics.
“The FBI’s 2015 report documented an increase in hate crimes against African Americans, members of the LGBTQ community, Native Americans, Jews and Muslims,” she said. “Approximately 250,000 hate crimes take place each year in the United States, but only 2 percent are reported to the FBI.”
That is part of what a hate crimes bill is intended to do – allow harsher penalties for those who commit crimes based on bias against protected classes, and make it mandatory for law enforcement to report such crimes to the FBI.
But, along with the list of protected classes, that language was stripped out of the Indiana bill, Troutman said.
“We must have thorough accounting and reporting. This law is not all comprehensive. ... Thousands suffer from hate crimes and the time is now to get a comprehensive bill in Indiana.”
Pastor Dennis Carroll Sr., a member of the Michigan City Human Rights Commission, led a prayer calling for that to happen.
“We are united as we stand together and call on Gov. Holcomb and the General Assembly to fix this to include all human beings. We are all equal and all God’s children. ... You see the violence and the hatred and the abuse and the discrimination. Indiana’s law must include equality for all – genders, ages, races, disabilities, sex, gender identity, religion, creed, gender orientation ... it must cover all multitude of sins; it must protect everyone’s rights.”
Nancy Mollenhauer, also a member of the Human Rights Commission, went to Indianapolis for a similar rally before the bill passed.
“We need to fix this,” she said. “Gov. Holcomb promised he would not sign a bill if it did not include crimes against transgenders, but he went back on his word and signed a bill that is not comprehensive at all and is probably illegal. We won’t forget that.”
Who is not protected? Mollenhauer said the list is long.
“Women, half the population, and the group with the highest rate of being abused or murdered ... The elderly, who are more apt than others to be taken advantage of by their own families or caregivers. They can be held hostage in their own homes and have their bank accounts emptied so they can never afford nursing home care. They are not protected.
“And transgenders, by far the most affected under the present presidential administration, which says it is OK to batter and OK to kill ... Transgenders have the highest number of individuals affected. And black transgender women have the highest murder rate of all classes – in American and around the world.”
Mollenhauer gave credit to two local “heroes” for trying to get a comprehensive bill passed.
“We had two heroes in La Porte County. Rep. Pat Boy filed a comprehensive hate/bias bill in the House including every single class that needs protection, and it required reporting to the FBI. It was the best bill, but because she was a freshman from the wrong party, that bill never had a chance of getting out of committee.
“And Sen. Mike Bohacek filed a bill that listed every class. That bill made it to the Senate floor but an amendment was offered by Republican senators from other parts of the state and stripped out the list of classes. So we are stuck with something that is inadequate and won’t remove Indiana from the list of states without a hate/bias bill. It does nothing. It’s just fluff.”
Moore agreed and urged everyone to sign the NAACP’s online petition (https://mailchi.mp/da5e41e3fdaf/fixhatecrimeslaw).
“Our petition is online and we need everyone to sign because everyone is affected,” she said. “Anyone who needs to be protected should sign it. And if you are not among those, then you know someone who is.”
But signing a petition is not enough, Moore said.
“We need people to sit on local boards and commissions, not wait until election day. We need to fix this now. We need to hold our elected representatives accountable; they need to be transparent so laws like this can never be passed again.”
Moore invited anyone interested in the issue to the NAACP’s monthly meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Ivy Tech at 3714 Franklin St., Michigan City, where the issue will be discussed further. It will also be discussed at the PFLAG Michigan City and La Porte County Chapter meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Artspace Uptown Artist Lofts at 717 Franklin St., Michigan City.