CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Several activist organizations are coming together to push for a hate crime bill at the state level. The campaign, launched on Wednesday, is called Stamp Out Hate and is calling on lawmakers to make a hate crime law a reality in the next legislative session.
The groups involved are: The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Charleston, Alliance for Full Acceptance, Mother Emanuel AME Church, Charleston Hispanic Association, Lowcountry Coalition Against Hate, the Anti-Defamation League, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Columbia Jewish Federation, Charleston Jewish Federation and several others.
Brandon Fish is the Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Charleston.
“We can only be effective as a community pushing for this hate crime legislation if we unite,” Fish said. “We need to establish from the beginning that a hate crime bill that doesn’t protect each of our communities, might as well not protect any of our communities.”
South Carolina is one of only three states in the country that does not have a law specifically protecting citizens from hate crimes.
The law would effectively enhance any punishment for a criminal offense if deemed a hate crime. Fish says crimes that instill fear throughout a specific community need to be judged at a higher standard.
“When you think of what a hate crime is and what it accomplishes you realize its effects are very different than normal crimes,” Fish said. “For example, to spray paint a happy face on a sidewalk has a very different effect and intention behind it than it is to spray paint a swastika on a mosque or a synagogue.”
While the campaign may be motivated by recent violence and incidents of vandalism its roots are in the 2015 shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church. On June 17 of that year, a white supremacist opened fire inside the church killing nine people.
“There’s been a series of very public hate crimes that have happened across America, starting with Mother Emanuel but also the Tree of Life shooting in Pittsburg,” Fish said. “We always seem to be coming together as a community to mourn the loss of people and to decry these tragedies. . . but we should also be coming together to take action.”
Part of the campaign is get people to sign an Anti-Defamation League petition to encourage lawmakers to pass hate crime legislation.