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Ev'rybody's talking 'bout Bagism, Shagism, Dragism, Madism, Ragism, Tagism This-ism, that-ism, is-m, is-m, is-m

All we are saying is give peace a chance All we are saying is give peace a chance

--John Lennon

In recent weeks, Kanye West has made vile, threatening antisemitic statements and recycled centuries-old racist tropes in sweeping attacks on the Jewish community.

His statements were part of a broader display of racial gaslighting that included wearing a shirt that read “White Lives Matter” and questioning the actual cause of George Floyd's death. Given his high profile status, West’s statements (which he repeated in numerous interviews) were concerning enough, but they became even more unsettling when a well-established hate group engaged in an alarming antisemitic demonstration above the 405 freeway while simultaneously showing support for Kanye West.

Just two weeks before West’s tirade, Los Angeles was turned inside out after an audio recording surfaced of a conversation between three elected members of the LA City Council and a major labor leader.

The city listened in horror as these officials participated in an explicitly racist conversation about Black and Oaxacan Americans.

A few days ago, antisemitic flyers were distributed in Beverly Hills, blaming Jewish families for everything from Covid to gun control prompting many to ask, what is going on? It seems as though ideologues from both extremes of the political spectrum are deliberately fraying the seams of our society. We are amid an enduring struggle for power and control that uses race, religion, and other identifying traits to divide and turn us against each other. Most concerning, we are experiencing deliberate attacks designed to undermine and abolish the law and order structures that bind our society together.

During the summer of 2020, demonstrations demanded the defunding and abolishing of police, prosecutors, and prisons. This movement was joined by politicians and academics who went so far as to delete the word “justice” from our criminal justice system.

Prosecutors who enforced the laws passed by the People were maligned as ignorant and racist. On his first day in office, newly elected District Attorney George Gascon, a leading “progressive prosecutor,” proudly proclaimed that “Enhancements (which includes hate crimes) do not have anything to do with accountability,” so he would no longer prosecute any hate crimes. He made this proclamation knowing that, year after year after year, Black Americans are the most victimized group in America by hate-motivated criminals.

In the case of Kanye, words matter. In the case of Gascon, policy matters more. Gascon proudly took this position with the complete understanding that hate crimes against Jews, Asians, and the LGBTQ communities were soaring! Only after the LGBTQ community and Anti-Defamation League threatened to withdraw their political support did Gascon walk back his policy against prosecuting hate crimes. Where is his leadership now?

According to the California Attorney General, 2021 saw an increase in the number of hate crime incidents, crimes, victims, and suspects throughout the state. The growth of those crimes is incredibly profound in Los Angeles County, with the LA County Commission on Human Relations reporting in November of 2021 that hate crime reports had jumped more than 20 percent, reaching their highest point in more than a dozen years.

These facts are known to District Attorney Gascon, yet LA County, the most diverse and populous county in the United States with the largest prosecution agency, still does not have a division within the District Attorney’s office dedicated to investigating and prosecuting hate crimes.

Hard-working prosecutors throughout the county receive some training on handling hate crimes prosecutions, but in the face of skyrocketing increases in hate crimes over the last few years and the significant impact these crimes have had on minority communities throughout the county, the DA needs to reassess and redirect much-needed resources to address this crisis in our community.

The LADA is divided into geographical-based prosecutions and specialized, crime-driven divisions, focused on crimes such as Major Narcotics, Sex Crimes, Family Violence, Elder Abuse, Auto Fraud, etc. Each division is staffed with dedicated teams of prosecutors who become subject matter experts in prosecuting those crimes. In turn, the management structure of each division reports directly to the District Attorney’s executive team.

Creating a Hate Crimes Division within the DA’s Office, with resources and management to address the growing threat of hate in our communities, is long overdue.

We need leadership, not rhetoric, and we need it now!

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