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Listening session addresses issue of hate crimes in Minnesota

Updated: October 16, 2019 10:14 PM

State leaders and community members in Minneapolis are working on ways to address hate crimes.

On Wednesday, Attorney General Keith Ellison brought together leaders of the Jewish faith to talk about a rise in anti-Semitism in our state.

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Wednesday's listening session at Temple Israel was all about confronting the hate.

"This needs to be a statewide effort," said Ellison. 

Temple Israel is a safe space for many, but even Temple Israel Senior Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman admits outside events have an impact there.

"Here we feel it locally in a way we haven't for a really long time," said Zimmerman.

"We need to be able to sit and talk together about these issues," said Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council Steve Hunegs.

According to the most recent FBI stats, hate crimes in Minnesota have gone up every year since 2014. But Zimmerman thinks something is off with those numbers.

"Very underreported," said Zimmerman. "Very low, I was shocked."

"Across the board, hate crimes are increasing and in some cases dramatically," said Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Minneapolis).

Despite what some feel are low numbers, Hornstein helped pass legislation a couple years ago to increase the penalties for hate crimes.

"But I felt like something more needed to happen," said Hornstein. 

Ellison believes a three-pronged approach is needed. Part of it includes new legislation when it comes to labeling hate crimes, that can as a result help law enforcement.

"They need more reporting, they need more data collection, better tools to enforce the law," said Ellison. 

"So that we can begin to clearly identify and define hate crimes," said Zimmerman. 

While state leaders tackle one part of the issue, many agree building community is a simple way that everyone can confront the hate.

"It's also important to raise up, celebrate what communities are doing together to fight back," Hunegs said.

Ellison will hold another similar listening session on Oct. 22nd on the campus of St. Cloud State University from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. It will be focused on, but not limited to, white nationalism.

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Brett Hoffland

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