U.S. Attorney’s Office to host ‘United Against Hate’

by | Nov 10, 2022 | Featured

Wednesday, November 30, 7:30 pm

Sandler Family Campus, Free

United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s Jewish Community Relations Council will host the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia United Against Hate, a program designed to help community members and leaders better understand what constitutes a hate crime, how to best report it to law enforcement, and where it goes from there.

Hate crimes versus hate incidents, the importance of reporting unlawful acts of hate, providing options for responding to incidents when situations do not constitute a federal or state crime, and more will be covered at the event. Attendees will learn about how the U.S. Attorney’s Offices investigate hate, participate in hypothetical scenarios, and review video clips depicting real-life hate crime cases from recent years.

Jessica D. Aber, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, will lead the program. Aber received her Bachelor of Arts, magna cum laude, from the University of Richmond in 2003 and her Juris Doctor from William & Mary Law School in 2006. Aber began her legal career as a law clerk for then-Magistrate Judge M. Hannah Lauck of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in 2006. From 2007 to 2008, she was an associate at McGuireWoods.

In March 2021, Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner recommended Aber and one other candidate to the White House. On August 10, 2021, President Joe Biden nominated Aber to be the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. On October 5, 2021, her nomination was confirmed in the United States Senate by voice vote.

In a brief interview with Jewish News, Aber explains why her office is presenting the program and what is hoped will be gained by it.

Jewish News: What inspired the U.S. Attorney’s Office to create the United Against Hate program?

Jessica D. Aber: On May 27, 2021, Attorney General Garland issued a memorandum on “Improving the Department’s Efforts to Combat Hate Crimes and Hate Incidents,” which emphasized the importance of prioritizing community outreach around hate crimes. The “United Against Hate: Identifying, Reporting and Preventing Hate Crimes” presentation, developed by the Department’s Hate Crimes Enforcement and Prevention Initiative, is designed to meet that objective. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia applied for and was proud to be selected for the first national phase of this important program.

JN: What does the Office see as a reason(s) for the rise in hate crimes?

JA: According to the findings of the 2021 Congressional COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, following the spread of COVID-19 in 2020, there was a dramatic increase in hate crimes and violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. A report supporting this Act found that there were nearly 3,800 reported cases of anti-Asian discrimination and incidents related to COVID-19 between March 19, 2020, and February 28, 2021, in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. During this time frame, race was cited as the primary reason for discrimination.

JN: How often does someone actually get prosecuted for committing a hate crime?

JA: According to the 2020 hate crimes data gathered by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting submitted by 15,138 law enforcement agencies, during that year there were 8,263 hate crime incidents involving 11,129 offenses.

It’s not clear how many of those reports resulted in actual federal or state prosecutions, but part of the reason that these numbers might seem low is that hate crimes often go unreported. One of the goals of UAH is to explain how and why to report hate crimes, and to show that law enforcement really does care to learn about all hate incidents to ensure that they can be properly investigated.

JN: Where does the Office see the most increase of hate crimes? Why is this happening now, in 2022?

JA: There are a broad range of factors that could play into why any crime happens, and the causes behind an increase in hate crimes is similarly difficult to pin on any number of specific factors. What we at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia do know, along with its federal and state law enforcement partners, is that one hate crime is too much. We want to see an end to all hate crimes. We hope that UAH will be the beginning of increased public awareness about hate crimes in the Eastern District of Virginia.

JN: Will this be an information session or will attendees leave with tools for dealing with and possibly preventing hate crimes?

JA: This presentation will cover three topic areas: Identifying Hate Crimes, Reporting Hate Crimes, and Preventing Hate Crimes. The goal of the presentation is to help local community members have a better understanding of hate crimes and how to report them to law enforcement.

Open to the entire community, the program will bring people of all faiths, races, and ethnicities together, along with law enforcement leaders from every municipality in the region, to foster a robust dialogue and create partnerships to fight against hate.

Registration is required by November 23. Email usavae.rsvp@usdoj.gov. For more information or to request assistance or accommodation, contact Rebecca Gantt at Rebecca.gantt@usdoj.gov, or Elka Mednick, UJFT’s JCRC assistant director, at EMednick@ujft.org.

Elka Mednick