Fargo passes hate crimes ordinance


Mayor Tim Mahoney and City Commissioners Arlette Preston and John Strand voted in favor of the hate crimes law, while Commissioners Tony Gehrig and Dave Piepkorn voted against the ordinance.

On June 1, the city commission voted 3-2 to proceed with orders allowing police and city prosecutors to charge residents with a Class B misdemeanor if they committed any of the three crimes, ” in whole or in part because of the victim’s perceived or actual race, color, religion, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin or ancestry.

The additional charge would result in a fine of $ 1,500 or 30 days in jail, which is the most severe punishment a city can impose. It would be linked to the crimes of common assault, harassment and criminal mischief.

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Before the vote, Gehrig attempted to add a political affiliation to the list, which was rejected but could be added at a later date as an amendment, Preston said.

About 20 activists and supporters of the ordinance applauded after the vote, but Arden Light, a transgender man and local activist leader, expects the ordinance to be legally challenged.

“We’ve been working on this since last August and we were concerned that the state was preempting and saying we can’t do it,” Light said.

Although the North Dakota Century Code already has a hate crime law, it is “minimalist” and only applies to situations on public property, said Barry Nelson of the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition.

One person spoke against the ordinance before the vote.

Fargo resident Sheri Fercho addressed town commissioners, asking them to vote against the ordinance. She said it would pit the town of Fargo against the rest of the state.

Sheri Fercho speaks out against the vote on the Fargo City Commission Hate Crimes Ordinance at Fargo Town Hall on Monday, June 28, 2021. David Samson / The Forum

Sheri Fercho speaks out against the vote on the Fargo City Commission Hate Crimes Ordinance at Fargo Town Hall on Monday, June 28, 2021. David Samson / The Forum

“Even though they feel this is a worthy cause, it sends a divisive message,” Fercho said, adding that the strategy to bypass the state legislature was flawed and could lead to litigation at the to come up. Similar hate crime bills have been proposed to the state legislature in recent years and have failed.

“Please consider slowing down this process to draft a well-drafted bill,” Fercho said. “First of all, it has to be done the right way and for the right causes. As a curator, you should also consider everyone else. Look at it in a slow and patient manner and don’t be in a hurry to come by tonight. ”

Wess Philome, organizer of racial justice organization OneFargo, said the hate crimes ordinance was neither dismissive nor divisive. He highlighted a series of crimes he considered to be motivated by hate over the past year, including the vandalism of the Moorhead Fargo Islamic Center and protesters targeted by moving vehicles.

“May history and our community see those who did their best to protect us from hatred and those who opposed directly. We must constantly strive to make Fargo inclusive for all, “said Philome, adding that the ordinance did not need to end like the hate crimes law currently in the Century Code” which no one has ever had. been accused ”.

Faith Shields-Dixon, a Black Lives Matter organizer from Fargo-Moorhead, said she hoped all commissioners would vote in favor of the ordinance. Recently, she said, P’s & Q’s Etiquette LLC, an office space in Fargo where young women of color will feel safe, was ransacked.

A Facebook fundraiser by former Moorhead Mayor Del Ray Williams raised $ 5,145 of a $ 5,000 goal to help Moorhead Area School Board member Rachel Stone clean the office.

On May 20, President Joe Biden signed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act into law, which is a nationwide effort to facilitate and expedite hate crime reviews and hate crime reporting. The law requires the Department of Justice to issue guidelines for state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies on establishing processes for online hate crime reporting, data collection and reporting. awareness of hate crimes during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The bill also establishes grants to establish state-run hate crime hotlines and authorizes grants to state and local governments to implement the national incident reporting system and conduct programs. reduction of crime to prevent, treat or respond to hate crimes.

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