A bright summer day helped people gathered around the steps of city hall express their concerns for victims of hate crime.
The Muncie branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) held a rally Saturday at City Hall to promote adding sex, gender, gender identity and age to the House Bill 1020.
The synopsis of H.B. 1020 states “Hate crimes. Makes it an aggravating circumstance (for purposes of imposing a criminal sentence) that the crime was committed with the intent to harm or intimidate an individual or a group of individuals because of certain perceived or actual characteristics of the individual or group of individuals.”
Speakers at the rally included Rep. Sue Errington, Sen. Tim Lanane and Mayor Dennis Tyler.
Errington said there were two versions of the bill — a “strong and weak version."
“The strong one was specific and included everybody, and it brought up the types of classes of crimes that could be a hate [crime],” Errington said. “The weak one was more general, more vague, and what actually passed referenced another law and it had part of the list of the types of victims [of a hate crime] but not all of them.”
The bill seemed to passed to get Indiana off the “economic list” of states that do not have any hate crime laws in place, she said, rather than protect all victims of a hate crime.
“We’re not done. As long as it’s a weak hate crimes bill there’s still work to be done,” Errington said.
Lanane called the current hate crimes bill “half-baked” and that it needs to be “fully baked." He added that the rally helped express “what people in Indiana really want.”
“So, when [people] see half measures, when they say say ‘Oh well, it was a good start’ — a start is not the finish … ” Lanane said.
He said the current bill does protect against hate crimes committed against people on the basis of race, religion, creed and sexual orientation, but the “remaining question” is why the bill did not include sex, gender, gender identity and age.
“I think they, the citizens of the state, whether it’s Muncie or anywhere, need to contact their state representatives and state senators and say ‘You need to go back and amend the hate crimes bill to add those additional categories to the list so we can have a comprehensive hate crimes bill,’” Lanane said.
Mayor Tyler said rallies such as these “sends a message” to people in Muncie who “may be fearful” of the weaknesses in the current bill and that this helps victims of hate crimes know that “they are not out there alone.”
“It seems like every year, or the last few years, we’re here having a rally over something that is extremely serious that impacts people of color or people that have a different idea of a sexual orientation,” He said. “And it seems like every year we’re here doing that because there’s leaders in the Indiana General Assembly that do not want to give everybody the same rights.”
Joseph Anderson, president of the NAACP Muncie, said rallies such like these bring a “diverse group of people together for a common goal.”
“I look at different groups, as you have Muncie Resist and the Concerned Clergy representatives, the NAACP — you have the state NAACP representatives here — so, you have kind of a melting pot of folks coming together,” Anderson said.
He said Muncie has to make sure that “everyone has a seat at the table," and that their voices are heard and addressed.
Contact Charles Melton with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Cmelton144.