“A hate crime isn’t directed towards a specific individual,” the Human Rights Campaign council member said. “It’s a message sent to an entire group of people.”
With nearly three dozen local residents in attendance, Paine College hosted a hate crimes prevention forum Tuesday evening.
Richmond County was selected as the inaugural site of the forum by U.S. Attorney Ed Tarver, who oversees 43 counties in the southern district of Georgia. President Obama nominated Tarver as U.S. Attorney of the Southern District of Georgia in 2009.
“Paine College has always been at the forefront when it comes to social issues, so I feel like it’s very appropriate that we hosted the first event,” Paine College assistant Vice President Helene Carter said. “It means a lot to be the chosen site.”
One of Tarver’s objectives has been to reduce the number of hate crimes in his 43-county district.
“There are a lot of things people don’t understand about hate crimes and our goal is to educate the public on how they’re handled by law enforcement,” Tarver said. “More importantly, our goal is to inform people on the resources we provide and how these crimes can be prevented.”
The seminar was open to the public, while six speakers, including Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver, took part.
“We hoped to hold the event while school was in session, but we had to reschedule twice for different reasons,” Carter said. “Still, we’re very thankful for the people who decided to come.”
With residents of different religious backgrounds and sexual orientation in attendance, Tarver said the goal of Tuesday’s forum was to learn how acts of hate can be minimized.
“That’s what we’re hoping for,” he said. “Hopefully, by educating people on hate crimes we can eventually eliminate them from our society.”
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, one of the groups most commonly targeted by discrimination are transgender people.
“While it is difficult to find comprehensive data, a survey by the National Center of Transgender Equality found discrimination against transgender individuals is pervasive,” Deputy Attorney General James Cole said. “Sixty-three percent of respondents reported they had experienced a serious act of discrimination that had a major impact on their quality of life and their ability to sustain themselves financially or emotionally.”
Although Tuesday marked the inaugural event, Tarver is optimistic about the future of the forum.