SC lawmakers advocate for hate crime bill as hate groups increase in state

Updated: Feb. 4, 2021 at 9:34 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The number of hate groups in South Carolina have increased since 2015, according to data from the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The SPLC’s “hate map” tracked 20 hate groups in South Carolina in 2020. It’s the largest number since 2015 when the SPLC said they identified 22 hate groups in the state.

State lawmakers say that’s more of a reason for the state to pass hate crime legislation.

With the General Assembly back in session, Rep. Wendell Gilliard believes the hate crime legislation he pre-filed back in 2018 will finally become law.

“When we first started this endeavor five years ago, we had five states that did not have a hate crime law. Now we have three states and South Carolina is one,” Gilliard said. “It’s so important that we make the statement here in South Carolina and to show the world that we are ready, we’re going to make process, we are serious.”

The bill would add penalties for crimes committed against a person because of their “race, religion, color, sex age, national origin, sexual orientation, or homelessness.”

Rep. JA Moore, who represents parts of Berkeley and Charleston counties, says his family has been a target of hate many times, but it was the 2015 massacre at Mother Emanuel AME Church, where his sister was killed, that prompted lawmakers to introduce a hate crime bill.

The City of Charleston already passed a hate crime ordinance back in 2018.

While Moore says a state-wide bill won’t prevent hate itself, it will hold people accountable for bias motivated crimes.

“My hope now is that although it might not be a priority for leadership, it’s a number one priority for me and my constituents that I represent in District 15 and millions of South Carolinians,” he said. “I hope the will of the people, no matter the political affiliation, will reign true this time.”

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