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Gillibrand: More funds needed to protect against hate crimes

N.Y. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, with NYPD Deputy Inspector

N.Y. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, with NYPD Deputy Inspector Mark Magrone to her left on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, said she will ask for an immediate boost in funds to protect houses of worship from hate crimes. Credit: Charles Eckert

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said Sunday she wants an immediate $5 million boost in federal anti-terror funding after a recent spike in hate crimes targeting Muslims, Jews and members of the LGBT community.

“It’s happening all around the country,” Gillibrand said during a news conference in her Manhattan office attended by NYPD officials and Jewish, Muslim and Christian clergy members. “. . . We have seen swastikas and KKK painted in parks and places of worship and there needs to be more security funding.”

Gillibrand said she is seeking the increase by the end of the year.

The money would add to the $20 million Nonprofit Security Grant Program, part of the Homeland Security Appropriations bill and designed to pay for added security at religious institutions and nonprofits nationwide.

The Democratic senator said the funds would pay for cameras and barriers to protect houses of worship and congregants from terror attacks and hate crimes. Gillibrand said she will introduce a bill in 2017 keeping the amount in the grant program at $25 million.

She spoke about a Muslim woman wearing a hijab who was harassed Thursday on a Manhattan subway train.

“It’s disgraceful,” Gillibrand said. “People should have stood up to defend her. In our schools, children are being bullied. We all need to stand up to the bully and shout out that we do not believe in hate.”

Other recent incidents have included the burning of flags at lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community centers and the spray-painting of swastikas at parks and synagogues, Gillibrand said.

The senator’s effort is the latest attempt to stem a surge in hate crimes and harassment. On a Sunday in November, Gov. Mario M. Cuomo spoke to worshippers at a Harlem church about initiatives aimed at hate-based crimes. Cuomo decried what he called “the whirlwind of hate and division all across this country” since the election of Donald Trump.

He cited Ku Klux Klan fliers found on vehicles in Patchogue a few days before his speech at Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church, and a swastika surrounded by “Make America White Again” scrawled on an upstate park building, as examples of “the demonization of differences.”

The grant program Gillibrand spoke about Sunday provides funding for security-grade windows, doors and locks, gates and fences, and even metal detectors for religious and nonprofit institutions considered targets of terrorism or hate crimes.

“We know these incidents are nationwide and this is not representative of New York or America. It goes against our core values as Americans,” said Gillibrand, who asked New Yorkers “to shout out and protest” against these acts of hate. “People should stand up and protect the most vulnerable.”

Last week, the FBI released a report for 2015 that tallied 5,818 incidents of bias involving 7,121 victims, Gillibrand said. Of those victims, 59.2 percent were targeted because of race and ethnicity, and 19.7 percent because of religious bias, she said.

The NYPD reported last week that hate crimes spiked 35 percent from 2015. NYPD Deputy Inspector Mark Magrone said at the Sunday news conference that “a person has the right to feel safe in their own skin and in their religious clothes.”

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