FBI/BCRI Conference: Hate Crimes: 50 Years After the Freedom Rides
BIRMINGHAM, AL—The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Birmingham Division, will sponsor a conference, Hate Crimes: 50 Years After the Freedom Rides, on Sunday and Monday, May 15-16, 2011 at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, 520 Sixteenth Street North.
On Sunday, May 15, at 4:00 p.m., the public is invited to a program that will include reflections on the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides, discussion of recent hate crime laws, and a tour of BCRI. The tour will include the photography exhibit Courage Under Fire: The 1961 Burning of the Freedom Riders Bus by Joseph Postiglione, which captures images of the attack on freedom riders outside Anniston, Alabama.
The conference continues on Monday, May 16, with training sessions for community leaders from 8:00 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. The training is free but registration is required. The objective is to create open, honest dialogue between law enforcement officials and the community, to learn what a hate crime is and how to report it, and to identify community resources that combat hate.
“The choice of this topic is timely because it connects historic events and contemporary concerns,” said Priscilla Hancock Cooper, BCRI vice-president of institutional programs. “May 2011 marks the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides, one of history’s most blatant examples of how hatred can escalate into violence.”
FBI Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Patrick J. Maley noted, “Despite the fact that hate crimes have existed throughout the history of the United States, laws addressing hate crimes are relatively new,” specifically the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009. SAC Maley said that the recent law resulted from two “triggering events,” which resulted in the brutal killing of two men for which the law is named. Robert Byrd, Jr., a 49-year-old black man, was dragged behind a pick-up truck by three white male members of a white supremacist group in Jasper, Texas. Matthew Shepard was assaulted outside a known gay establishment by two strangers who kidnapped, pistol-whipped, and tied him to a fence in Wyoming.
The Shepard/Byrd Act extends protection to individuals who may be attacked because of national origin, gender/gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability, as well as religion and race. These crimes take many forms including:
A cross is burned in someone’s yard or a noose is hung on a door handle.
Someone is bullied and beaten because they “looked Middle Eastern.”
A young man is killed because of his sexual orientation.
A mentally challenged woman is kidnapped and tortured for days and then killed by a group of people pretending to be her good friends—and the stories continue.