Attorney General Rob Bonta, Stockton leaders meet to discuss curbing hate crime

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California Attorney General Rob Bonta speaks at a press conference after a hate crimes roundtable discussion with community leaders at the Memorial Civic Auditorium in downtown Stockton on Tuesday.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta speaks at a press conference after a hate crimes roundtable discussion with community leaders at the Memorial Civic Auditorium in downtown Stockton on Tuesday.

Stockton community leaders and Attorney General Rob Bonta gathered at the Stockton Memorial Civic Memorial Auditorium to discuss a spike in hate crimes statewide.

“The problem, as our report earlier today shows, is stark, it’s chilling and it’s growing, unfortunately,” Bonta said. “But there’s no challenge or problem we can’t overcome when we address it together and join a common cause to provide solutions.”

Nearly 1,800 hate crimes were reported in California in 2021, up 33% from 2020, which also saw a steep hike in hate crimes, according to the annual report released Tuesday. Bonta said anti African American events continue to be most prevalent — up 13% from 2020 at 513 reported hate crimes statewide —and anti-Asian bias events rose from 89 in 2020 to 247 in 2021, an increase of 177.5%.

In Stockton, the most diverse big city in America, 23 hate crimes were reported last year, Bonta said. Lodi reported just one hate crime, and Tracy reported three last year. Bonta said many hate crimes have gone unreported as such, and while hate incidents are not crimes — an actual criminal act needs to be attached to be prosecuted — they still need to be reported and dealt with.

San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar, Stockton Mayor Kevin Lincoln and Stockton Police Chief Stanley McFadden were among the local officials on hand as California Attorney General Rob Bonta speaks at a press conference after a hate crimes roundtable discussion with community leaders at the Memorial Civic Auditorium in downtown Stockton on Tuesday.
San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar, Stockton Mayor Kevin Lincoln and Stockton Police Chief Stanley McFadden were among the local officials on hand as California Attorney General Rob Bonta speaks at a press conference after a hate crimes roundtable discussion with community leaders at the Memorial Civic Auditorium in downtown Stockton on Tuesday.

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“I think it’s very important to address hate incidents when they occur, even at the local level, because they will become hate crimes next if they’re not dealt with,” Bonta said. “Interventions, restorative justice, cross cultural awareness circles are ways to address the issues before they worsen.”

Bonta said the state Department of Justice has created a Racial Justice Bureau to call out injustice in California, and the Office of Community Awareness, Response and Engagement to work with community organizations and local elected officials to address historical inequities in the justice system and ensure the inclusion of diverse perspectives in the state’s work.

As the Jan. 6 hearings play out on Capitol Hill, Bonta connected the rise in hate crimes to the rhetoric coming out of the White House for four years during the Trump Administration.

(6/28/22)San Joaquin Pride Center executive director Cymone Reyes speaks at a press conference after a hate crimes roundtable discussion with other community leaders at the Memorial Civic Auditorium in downtown Stockton on Tuesday, June, 28, 2022. CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD
(6/28/22)San Joaquin Pride Center executive director Cymone Reyes speaks at a press conference after a hate crimes roundtable discussion with other community leaders at the Memorial Civic Auditorium in downtown Stockton on Tuesday, June, 28, 2022. CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD

“If we have a leader of the free world, the leader of our country, using the biggest megaphone on the planet to express xenophobia, discrimination, the hate and prejudice that has happened, it gives people license to act on hateful motivations and thoughts,” Bonta said.

More: ‘Epidemic of hate’: Anti-Black and Asian bias fuel California hate crime surge

Several community leaders were present at the roundtable discussion in Stockton, including Curtis Smith, executive director and pastor at Faith in the Valley, who said hate is being addressed well in Stockton, but there’s always more work to be done.

“Since the 2016 elections we’ve experienced a viral infection of divisive and hateful rhetoric … a dormant volcano,” Smith said. “The ashes have not stopped falling … I appeal to the citizens of our community; you must take responsibility for what’s going on here. Silence is not an option.”

California Attorney General Rob Bonta, left, speaks to NACCP Stockton branch president Bobby Bivens after a hate crimes roundtable discussion with other community leaders at the Memorial Civic Auditorium in downtown Stockton on Tuesday.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta, left, speaks to NACCP Stockton branch president Bobby Bivens after a hate crimes roundtable discussion with other community leaders at the Memorial Civic Auditorium in downtown Stockton on Tuesday.

Stockton Mayor Kevin Lincoln said the roundtable was a foundational step in the right direction.

“Stockton is the most diverse city in our nation, and we must celebrate our differences and commonalities without fear of discrimination,” Lincoln said. “We must move forward and do whatever it takes to protect our city from acts of discrimination, bigotry and hate.”

Record reporter Ben Irwin covers Stockton and San Joaquin County government. He can be reached at birwin@recordnet.com or on Twitter @B1rwin. Support local news, subscribe to The Stockton Record at https://www.recordnet.com/subscribenow

This article originally appeared on The Record: 23 hate crimes reported in Stockton last year, AG Rob Bonta says