Federal Law Enforcement Leaders Affirm Importance of Protecting Civil Rights Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
(STL.News) – Today, U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams and FBI Special Agent in Charge Renn Cannon denounced discrimination and acts of hate targeting Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, and other racial and ethnic minorities and called on Oregonians to take steps to counter xenophobia throughout the state.
“During these challenging times, Oregonians must come together to stop the spread of both COVID-19 and racial bias,” said U.S. Attorney Williams. “It is categorically false that certain groups of people are more susceptible to carrying the virus based on their real or perceived race or ethnicity. Spreading these untruths puts communities at risk of real physical harm and must stop.”
“The FBI stands watch over all Americans. One of our top priorities is investigation of federal civil rights crimes against any person, including Asian Americans or individuals from East Asian countries,” said Special Agent in Charge Cannon. “We will use all authority granted under federal law to hold those who commit hate crimes accountable.”
The Justice Department will prosecute hate crimes and violations of anti-discrimination laws against Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, and others to the fullest extent of the law. Attorney General William Barr and Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Eric Dreiband have called upon department prosecutors throughout the country to watch for hate-motivated acts of violence.
U.S. Attorney Williams and Special Agent in Charge Cannon urged Oregonians to take the following steps to protect racial and ethnic minority community members from bias and hate:
- Use language supported by public health officials when referring to the global pandemic and the precipitating virus—World Health Organization (WHO) officials have recommended using “coronavirus disease 2019” or “COVID-19” as appropriate descriptors.
- Disseminate accurate COVID-19 information within professional and social networks—U.S. Government officials have warned the public about widespread misinformation and disinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Avoid spreading inaccurate information by relying on trusted sources for news and public health guidance. Examples include: the Centers for Disease
- Control and Prevention (CDC.gov), the WHO (WHO.int), and the Oregon Health Authority (Oregon.gov/OHA).
- Encourage people you know to report all incidents of bias and hate—There is a significant disparity between hate crimes that actually occur and those reported to law enforcement. It is critical to report hate crimes not only to show support for the individual(s) directly impacted, but also to send a clear message that the community will not tolerate these kinds of crimes.
- Reporting also enables law enforcement to fully understand the scope of the problem in a community and assign resources toward preventing and addressing crimes of bias and hate.
On March 18, 2020, U.S. Attorney Williams announced the appointment of a COVID-19 civil rights coordinator to lead investigations into known and suspected hate crimes and civil rights violations related to the nation’s ongoing public health emergency.