Make your home page

U.S. Attorney’s Office adding resources to fight hate crimes

U.S. attorney addresses hate crimes in Indiana

BLOOMINGTON (WISH) — On August 28, a transgender woman in Bloomington was verbally and physically assaulted, pushed to the ground, and hit with a sign.

“She came to us more concerned that this issue is out there for the public to know about, that yes, discrimination and hate incidents do occur even in a place like Bloomington, where a lot of people think it’s idyllic,” Michael Shermis, Director of of the Bloomington-Monroe County Human Rights Commission, said.

That’s why the city of Bloomington and the U.S. Attorney’s Office hosted a United Against Hate Forum at city hall Thursday evening.

It was part of a nationwide Department of Justice program educating communities about how to respond to hate crimes.

“It can happen in any city in any town throughout the 60 counties we cover in the Southern District of Indiana; frankly, we’re seeing these problems all over the United States,” Zachary Myers, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, said.

Myers says he’s adding two assistant U.S. attorneys to his office that will help investigate and prosecute these crimes.

The Southern District of Indiana spans from just north of Indianapolis to the Kentucky state line.

Myers wants to make it clear that investigators won’t prosecute people engaged in non-violent hate speech since that is protected by the First Amendment.

He says the volatile political climate in the country and on social media is causing people to cross the line between free speech and committing hate crimes.

“The Department of Justice was founded in 1870 to address hate crimes, to enforce the law all over the country after emancipation,” said Myers.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Indiana also enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination based on actual or perceived race, color, disability, religion, sexual orientation, and family status. It also focuses on employment and disability discrimination.

Marion County offers resources for anyone who has experienced or witnessed a potential bias-motivated crime.

To report a hate crime, call the Marion County hate crimes hotline at 317-327-5314. A trained social worker and a victim advocate from the prosecutor’s office will return your call.