A Bay Area senator wants to strengthen California's hate crime laws and treat crimes committed by white supremacist groups as terrorism.
Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) introduced SB 630 on Monday, as lawmakers returned to the Capitol after a monthlong recess. Senators immediately responded to the recent events in Charlottesville, Va. where 32-year-old, Heather Heyer, died after being hit by a car driven by a white nationalist.
Senators condemned the hate that was seen in Charlottesville and called for a "comprehensive state response" and hearings, to make sure California is ready to protect public safety and free speech in the event of future white supremacist activities.
Skinner's SB 630 would expand California's existing hate crime laws to protect individuals who are acting in support of, or in defense, of protected groups, whether they fall under the group or not.
This change would close a loophole that has allowed hate group members to escape harsher penalties; the same loophole currently exists in Virginia.
“Heather Heyer’s killer could not be charged with a hate crime because Heather herself does not fall within the law’s definition of a protected class,” said State Senator Nancy Skinner in a statement. “SB 630 addresses this ambiguity to ensure that those who commit a hate act, regardless of the status of the victim, can be prosecuted fully and appropriately.”
The senator also introduced two Resolutions, SJR 13 and SR 55, urging local, state and federal law enforcement to use all legal options, including those relating to terrorism and hate crimes, to prosecute white nationalist and neo-Nazi crimes.
“The horrific events in Charlottesville and elsewhere prove that violent white nationalism and neo-Nazism remain very real threats,” said Skinner. “These groups’ intent is to terrorize our communities, so it makes sense to prosecute them as terrorists.”