RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -Attorney General Mark Herring continues to hold a series of round table discussions across The Commonwealth, focused on proposed legislation to combat hate crimes and white supremacist violence.
“It is important that these crimes are taken seriously because if not, it can send the opposite message,” explained Attorney General Mark Herring.
At Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church in Richmond, Herring heard from community members, faith leaders, law makers and law enforcement representing several aspects of diversity.
“What we want to do is hear directly from those communities, in the Virginia and Richmond area, about how they have been impacted by hate crimes," Herring said.
Data shows there were 202 reported hate crimes in Virginia in 2017, and Herring says Virginia State Police have seen a 64 percent increase in hate crimes since 2013.
“I remember so many of those images, whether it was from the Friday night where neo-nazis and white supremacists were marching around the university with torches, and then the next day, roving bands of private militias heavily armed in uniform,” he said.
Following the violence in Charlottesville, Herring gave his support towards House Bill 1601. It was meant to give state police the ability to designate certain groups as domestic terrorists based on crimes the group was responsible for. The bills were not heard during the last General Assembly session.
“So far, the legislator has not taken any action and since then, we have seen hate crimes continue to rise,” Herring said. “So I’m hopeful legislators hear the stories of communities right here in the Richmond area and around the state, and they will see - like I have - that it is time to take action.”
The round table was an open discussion, as Herring heard from a room of more than a dozen people as they reviewed the proposed legislation and shared their personal experiences.
Three more discussions have been planned for the rest of the year:
- Charlottesville, December 5
- Norfolk, December 6
- Roanoke, December 19