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Town Hall Question

September 22, 1999

I also am a first time grandparent. I have never felt as strong as I do now about the hate crimes and school shootings. How will you help us heal our American spirit, I see how wounded so many of us are. I am in the helping profession and I see so much emotional pain. I take my grandson to work with me sometimes because we don’t feel safe when he is not with someone in the family.

Francine Anzalolne-Byrd
San Diego, CA

Francine, I hear you and understand your anguish. Like many grandparents, you and I cherish the moments with our grandchildren. When I am lucky enough to spend time with Wyatt, I think about what life will be like when he grows older, and what more I can do to protect him and every child in America from harm’s way. We know that just talking about hate related violence will not solve the problem. And I am sure you feel just as strongly as I do about how important it is for our nation’s leaders to be pro-active on this issue.

As your president, I will fight to protect America’s children and grandchildren from the emotional pain that hate crimes and violence in our schools inflict. Because our administration listened to the voices of community members just like you, we assembled a White House Conference on Hate Crimes in 1997. Fortunately we were able to be pro-active, and announced measures adding approximately 50 FBI agents and federal prosecutors to our fight to enforce hate crimes laws, improve data collection on hate crimes, and begin new education programs to educate the public—especially youth —about hate crimes. The sense of security these measures begins to bring to our working families mean a great deal to me as a parent. I believe it is very important to keep our communities informed, to protect the public and to secure our streets and our hopes for our grandchildren.

Helping our streets become streets of peace has been a part of my work as Vice President. Our administration has passed measures to combat hate crimes, including the the 1994 Crime Bill. This bill included provisions like the Hate Crimes Sentencing Enhancement Act, which increased the crack down on hate crimes by about one-third.

And I was inspired as we worked with Southern governors to help stem the rash of church burnings, assist in the rebuilding process and helped to ensure that those responsible were prosecuted. Despite those crimes of hatred and ignorance—crimes against the very spirit of our nation—it was clear that the arsonists could not destroy the faith of these communities. The strong faith of those community members remains within me as I continue to reach out to America’s families through my campaign. I remain committed to fighting for America’s children and grandchildren and preventing crimes of hate. And as your president, I will continue my fight for our nation's working families and make sure they are safe in their neighborhoods and communities.

August 12, 1999

I haven't heard where Al Gore stands on Hate Crimes legislation. I believe it's badly needed.

Bill Potocki
Dallas, TX

I support the passage of Hate Crimes legislation that protects everyone in America. Hate crimes can not be tolerated—by anyone, anywhere. It is important for us come together as a nation against intolerance, against prejudice, and against violent and senseless bigotry. We need to send a clear message to those who would commit crimes of hate—we need stronger laws.

It is fundamentally different from other crimes if someone sets out to murder or harm an individual simply because of the color of his or her skin or lifestyle. Hate crimes, by their very nature, are designed to dehumanize an entire race or group of people. I urge Congress to pass the Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA), that would expand the definition of hate crimes to include those of gender, sexual orientation and disability, and allow for the prosecution of those crimes under federal law. This legislation sends a clear, strong message to all who would attack others simply because they are different: “Don't do it. It is wrong, it is illegal, and if you do commit these terrible crimes, we will find you, and punish you to the full force of our laws.”

Here in Washington, D.C., three men accosted a gay man in a park in 1997, forced him at gunpoint to go under a bridge, and beat him viciously while using anti-gay epithets. And in Jasper, Texas, James Byrd was dragged behind a truck until dead just because of the color of his skin. Earlier this week, a man walked into a Jewish Community Center and opened fire on kids—he was allegedly motivated by a hatred of Jews. These shameful acts of violence cause wounds beyond those injured or killed—they wound our American spirit.

These senseless acts make my point very clear: when we allow even a small number of Americans to harbor and act upon malice and intolerance we all feel the bitter sting of injustice. Crimes of hate against all people should carry a punishment that is swift and severe.

If elected President, I will make sure that this is only the beginning of the gains we make in the 21st century.

August 27th, 1999

What will you do to stop the police from stopping Latino and African Americans on the highways through racial profiling? My son is stopped repeatedly and sometimes searched but never held for anything!

Robert Thomas
Winston-Salem, NC

The strength of our citizenry and our law enforcement officers gives me a sense of great pride, but at the same time, it is difficult to hear stories about people like your son and not be concerned about the unequal treatment of our citizens. Occurrences of racial profiling should provoke a call for justice from all Americans. That is why, as President, my first civil rights action of the new century will be to end the practice of racial profiling in America.

I firmly believe that our strength as a nation lies in the wealth of diversity found in our communities. We can utilize this to our advantage by infusing diversity into the ranks of our criminal justice system. To begin with, I will support scholarships for communities that have been historically under-represented in our criminal justice system. To coordinate our efforts to end racial profiling nationwide, I will also support grants for police forces that establish professional development courses designed to help police officers prevent abuses. These measures will begin to help ensure officers respect and protect every law-abiding citizen.

We must continue the gains our administration has made in the war against crime, as well as the gains we, as a nation, have made in the fight for civil rights. Together as an empowered citizenry we must continue to champion civil justice. I want there to be a day when every American can be proud of our officers, prosecutors, and public defenders—not only because they reflect the diversity of our nation but because they also understand the diversity of the communities where they work.

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