Statement on the Issue of Hate Crimes

April 26, 2017

Mona Noriega    312.744.4100

Statement by Mona Noriega, Chair and Commissioner of the Chicago Commission on Human Relations to the City Council Committee on Human Relations on the Issue of Hate Crimes

Good Morning Chairman Dowell and members of the Human Relations Committee. My name is Mona Noriega, and I serve as the Chair and Commissioner of the Chicago Commission on Human Relations (CCHR). As you know, the Commission is the civil rights agency for the City of Chicago. We enforce the Chicago Human Rights and Fair Housing Ordinances and its protections against discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, credit and bonding. We investigate and adjudicate complaints of discrimination based on 16 protected classes such as race, sex, religion, and sexual orientation. The Commission also assists victims of hate crimes, mediates community tensions, and delivers educational workshops on a variety of human relations topics including bullying, prejudice reduction, and conflict resolution.

I come before you today with many of my colleagues in government, academics, and the advocacy world to help call attention to the issue of hate crimes here in Chicago.  As the FBI and national groups like the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center have reported increased hate crimes across the country, we too must look locally and listen to what our local communities report.[1] 

Since 2011, the CCHR has convened the Hate Crimes Coalition, stakeholders who address hate crimes including the CPD's Civil Rights Unit, Cook County State’s Attorney, Cook County Sherriff’s Office, the FBI, and advocacy groups that include the Anti-Defamation League and the Center on Halsted.   I could not work with a better group of people in coordinating educational efforts and advocacy for individuals and communities that are impacted by hate crimes.  In regards to education, our first message to communities is to know what a hate crime is.  Simply put a hate crime is a crime when someone targets an individual or property in one of the protected classes, because of the victim’s actual or perceived ancestry, color, creed, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identify, physical or mental disability, or national origin.  The crime can range from on-line harassment, criminal trespass to vehicle or property, to assault and battery.  Hate crime penalties are meant to serve as a deterrent to violence that is inflicted on marginalized groups of people that have a history of experiencing discrimination and violence.

The CCHR takes its mandate very seriously.  As stated in our enabling ordinance the CCHR is “…authorized to develop and initiate educational and other programs designed to reduce hate-based tensions and the incidence of hate crimes …”[2]

We deliver anti-bullying trainings in schools to parents, students and teachers, facilitate peace circles, and provide conflict mediation so that community based disputes do not escalate into hate crimes.  And most importantly, we help victims of hate crimes navigate the criminal court process, and provide much needed support while they participate in the prosecution of hate crime perpetrators.

The CCHR also works to foster trust between law enforcement and the community. For example, we partner with a community group called the International Human Relations Committee to host holiday gatherings at the 8th Police District and 17th Police Districts.  The holiday and inter-faith Ramadan celebrations bring people of different faiths, mostly Muslims and Christians and people of different races; African Americans, Latinos, and white community members together in their local police stations.

Last June, we coordinated a joint outreach initiative with CPD, FBI and CCHR to conduct outreach during Gay Pride Month. Then tragically in this same month, a month of celebration for gays and lesbians across the world, the horrific shooting at the popular gay nightclub, The Pulse in Orlando, Florida occurred. In response to this horrendous act, the CCHR facilitated opportunities for law enforcement and public officials, to participate in the public and collective mourning of a hate crime that was felt across the nation. 

In 2014 the Hate Crime Coalition delivered a Hate Crime Summit at the University of Illinois, Chicago Campus, and we are busy planning for an October 25, 2017 Hate Crime Summit in commemoration of the eighth anniversary of the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act that President Obama signed into law in October, 2009.  The goals of the Hate Crime Summit will be to raise awareness of hate crimes, address the barriers to reporting them, share affirmative community response models, and provide opportunities for networking and collaboration.

While the CCHR is tasked with addressing discrimination which is handled primarily through investigating and adjudicating complaints, we also do this by working with communities to prevent and report hate crimes.  Although many of us are aware that historically hate crimes are most often based on race, followed by religion and sexual orientation, we must remember that there are other communities that are also impacted by hate that may or may not be reporting them that we must reach out to, which would include the immigrant, disability, and transgender communities. 

In closing, we thank Chairman Dowell and the Human Relations Committee for holding this hearing on a very important and timely issue. Working together, we can take a strong stand against bigotry and hate and show the perpetrators of hate crimes that we are united in addressing this problem, and making our city safe for all of our residents. Thank you.

[1] The Southern Poverty Law Center’s analysis, the Anti-Defamation League’s comment  and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law

[2] Page 5 and 6


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