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Public Papers - 1990 - April

Remarks on Signing the Hate Crime Statistics Act

1990-04-23

First of all, let me give a special welcome to the Members of Congress -- Congress in session, taking the time to come down here -- several here who were so instrumental in the passage of this bill. Senator Simon, Senator Hatch, Senator Metzenbaum, Congressman Conyers, Congressman Sangmeister, Jack Brooks -- Chairman Brooks, I should say, respectfully, to a fellow Texan -- [laughter] -- and to Barbara Kennelly, and members of the civil rights community, religious leaders, and friends, welcome here. We join together to celebrate a significant step to help guarantee civil rights for every American: the passage and now the signing of the Hate Crime Statistics Act.

When I first heard that this bill had passed both Houses of Congress, I thought of a photograph in the news recently. And it's of the plaza near a Montgomery, Alabama, church where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., preached during the '55 bus boycott. And in that plaza stands a new civil rights memorial inscribed with the names of 40 brave Americans who died in the civil rights struggle, each one the victim of a hate crime. On the memorial's wall, water cascades over the vow made by Dr. King on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial: ``We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness, like a mighty stream.''

His pledge is just as powerful today. We will not be satisfied. Justice for all has been the historic mission of the civil rights movement, and it's a mission still to be fulfilled. Bigotry and hate regrettably still exist in this country, and hate breeds violence, threatening the security of our entire society. We must rid our communities of the poison we call prejudice, bias, and discrimination. That's why I'm signing into law today a measure to require the Attorney General to collect as much information as we can on crimes motivated by religion, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation -- the Hate Crime Statistic Act.

One of the greatest obligations of this administration and of the Department of Justice is the guarantee of civil rights for all Americans. As I said in my State of the Union Address, every one of us must confront and condemn racism, anti-Semitism, bigotry, and hate not next week, not tomorrow, but right now -- every single one of us. For hate crimes cannot be tolerated in a free society.

We have vigorously prosecuted Federal violations involving hate crimes. We will continue to do so. As we speak, 17 racist skinheads in Dallas are waiting to be sentenced by a Federal court for conspiring to commit hate crimes against Jewish, black, and Hispanic citizens. The mail bombings which killed a Federal judge and a NAACP lawyer are being investigated tenaciously by Federal authorities. We will not rest until the cowards who committed these senseless crimes are behind bars.

The Hate Crime Statistics Act is an important further step toward the protection of all Americans' civil rights. Our administration will work with Congress to determine whether new law enforcement measures are needed to bring hatemongers out of hiding and into the light of justice. And at the same time, by collecting and publicizing this information, we can shore up our first line of defense against the erosion of civil rights by alerting the cops on the beat.

I'm pleased to announce today that the Department of Justice has established a new toll-free phone number for reporting complaints of these hate crimes. Those incidents that can and should be prosecuted will be reported directly to the appropriate Federal, State, or local agency for action. The faster we can find out about these hideous crimes, the faster we can track down the bigots who commit them.

We must work together to build an America of opportunity, where every American is free finally from discrimination. And I will use this noble office, this bully pulpit, if you will, to speak out against hate and discrimination everywhere it exists.

Enacting this law today helps move us toward our dream: a society blind to prejudice, a society open to all. Until we reach that day when the bigotry and hate of mail bombings, and the vandalisms of the Yeshiva school and the Catholic churches we've seen recently, and so many other sad, sad incidents are no more -- until that day, we must remember: For America to continue to be a good place for any of us to live, it must be a good place for all of us to live.

So, you wouldn't be here if you weren't extraordinarily interested in the work of the United States Congress. So, I want to thank each and every one of you for coming. And now I'm pleased to sign the Hate Crime Statistics Act into the law.

Note: The President spoke at 3:02 p.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building. In his opening remarks, he referred to Representative Jack Brooks, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and Representative Barbara B. Kennelly. H.R. 1048, approved April 23, was assigned Public Law No. 101 - 275.

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