An all-day event at the University of South Florida today focused on building awareness and direct action to solve hate crimes issues in Florida and around the nation. It was sponsored by the College of Education and the Florida Commission on Human Relations.
Frank Hernandez, the student government director of diversity and multicultural awareness, is one of the event’s organizers. He says students are playing a role in what they are calling the ‘fight against hate crimes.’
According to the Department of Justice, about 7621 hate crimes were reported in 2007. Even with some statistical gaps in reporting, that’s one hate crime every hour.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reports a 40% increase in hate crimes against Latinos between 2003 and 2007 . Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project at the SPLC, expects an intense immigration debate to reemerge in the U.S. after the corporate media end their focus on heath care and climate change.
In Tampa, hate crimes against homeless people have been increasing along with the rise in the homeless population.
Danielle Carroll, Civil Rights Director at the Florida Office of the Attorney General, has worked as an attorney for the Florida Department of Health. She says that “we as a community must do our role.” Carroll quotes President Lyndon B. Johnson, saying it is as relevant today as it was many years ago: “…and he says, ‘The American city should be a collection of communities where every member has a right to belong. It should be a place where every man feels safe on his streets, and in the house of his friends. It should be a place where each individual’s dignity and self-respect is strengthened by the respect and affection of his neighbors. It should be a place where each of us find the satisfaction and warmth, which comes from being a member of the community of man. This is what man sought at the dawn of civilization; it is what we seek today.’ …and I think that is a perfect reflection of where we should be. We should be fostering that spirit among each other, to say, ‘hate crimes are unacceptable.’”
There are 56 hate groups in Florida, according to the SPLC. That includes the League of the South and the Nation of Islam in Tampa, and the Nationalist Coalition in St. Pete.