MDCR Director Arbulu and Attorney General Dana Nessel respond to new hate group report

Contact: Todd Heywood heywoodt@michigan.gov

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                          
February 22, 2019

Lansing, MI– The Michigan Department of Civil Rights Director Agustin V. Arbulu and Attorney General Dana Nessel are responding today to the release of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s annual Hate Map report. The report documents an increase in active extremist and hate organizations in Michigan.

The SPLC Hate Map report found Michigan experienced a 6.5 percent increase in active hate and extremist groups in the state. The civil rights organization located in Alabama reported 31 hate and extremist organizations operating in Michigan in 2018.

“This is a troubling trend,” said MDCR Director Agustin V. Arbulu. “These groups range in the ideological extremes from anti-Muslim, to anti-LGBT to black nationalist and white nationalists. Particularly of concern, over one half of the identified groups are located east of US-23 between Flint and Ann Arbor.”

Attorney General Dana Nessel said she would stand up to hate in Michigan.

"Hate cannot continue to flourish in our state," said Nessel, who found the Justice Project with Wayne County Prosecutor Kym L. Worthy to investigate and prosecute hate crimes. "I have seen the appalling, often fatal results of hate when it is acted upon. That is why I am establishing a hate-crimes unit in my office -- to fight against hate crimes and the many hate groups which have been allowed to proliferate in our state."

In addition to Attorney General Nessel's hate crime unit initiative, MDCR is developing a process by which it can document hate and bias incidents in the state. 

Hate and bias incidents are those instances where an action does not rise to the level of a crime or a civil infraction. For instance, in Lansing’s Old Town over the President’s Day weekend experienced a spat of flyering by the white nationalist group Patriot Front. Flyers removed by residents and visitors, but posted on social media, show the group was targeting immigrants as well as Jews with the flyers. The flyers are protected under the First Amendment and do not rise to a crime.

”Hate and bias incidents serve to create a chilling effect in diverse communities, such as Old Town”, Arbulu noted. By documenting such incidents in a database, MDCR, working with community partners, will be able to create targeted awareness and education programs to address and combat such incidents in general.

“Identifying and calling out hate and bias incidents is an important tool in our toolbox to educate Michiganders about the undertone of hatred in our communities,” said Arbulu. “But they also serve as a first step in developing community dialogs to strengthen our collective resolve to reject hate, bias and division. The Department looks forward to helping all of our community partners in fostering these important, powerful and ultimately life-changing discussions as we become more diversifed.”

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights, the operational arm of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, is charged with investigating and resolving discrimination complaints and works to prevent discrimination through educational programs that promote voluntary compliance with civil rights laws. The Department also provides information and services to businesses on diversity initiatives and equal employment law. For more information on the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, go to www.michigan.gov/mdcr.

 

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