A group of nine New York City community-based organizations, working citywide across diverse identities, convened by Jews For Racial & Economic Justice (in partnership with Communities United for Police Reform and the New York City Anti-Violence Project) recently rallied at City Hall steps in support of our new Hate Violence Prevention Initiative. The initiative calls for City Council funding to support community-based work, coordinated by a coalition of groups, to make New York safer for our communities.

Jumaane Williams speaking to a crowd
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams speaks at HVPI press conference
Rama Issa Ibrahim speaking to the crowd
(L to R) Rama Issa-Ibrahim (holding sign), Executive Director, Arab-American Association of New York & Audrey Sasson, Executive Director, Jews For Racial & Economic Justice (speaking), at the HVPI Press Conference, March 27, 2019

Over 300 hate crimes were reported to the New York Police Department in 2018. However, the city’s response to incidents of hate violence are ineffective, do not prevent crimes, educate or heal communities, and overly relies on policing. Obtaining a resolution to a hate-violence related incident through reporting to the police is insufficient for healing in communities, does not address the underlying tensions and ideologies that lead to hate violence, and increases penalties for hate crimes which are unlikely to deter assailants from committing acts of violence.

When a 12-year-old allegedly chalked swastikas on the playground of PS 139 in Rego Park, Queens a few weeks ago, we opposed a police-driven response with criminal penalties. Instead, we immediately reached out to the school and the community, and held an antisemitism workshop for children in the neighborhood led by a team of professional youth educators. This reflects our commitment to fighting hate violence using strategies that produce the long-term impact, healing, and learning all which we believe will prevent future hate incidents and knit communities closer together.

We believe that hate violence and bias incidents must be prevented in community, not by the police or by prosecutors. Organizations doing work in community to end hate violence not only work with communities to create safety and accountability in the diverse neighborhoods of New York, but are also working toward economic and racial justice for our communities.

The initiative includes the Audre Lorde Project, Arab American Association of New York, Brooklyn Movement Center, the Center for Anti-Violence Education, Desis Rising Up & Moving,, Global Action Project, Make The Road New York, Jews For Racial & Economic Justice, the Center for Anti-Violence Education, and the New York City Anti-Violence Project and would support these organizations to lead:

  • Bystander/upstander intervention trainings to empower community members to ally themselves with victims when an incident of hate or harassment is underway in public.
  • Community-based, culturally competent reporting of hate violence incidents. Marginalized communities feel safest reporting incidents to community-based organizations, which can help them to make a safety plan and determine whether or not they would like to report to law enforcement or another city agency
  • Community care, including community-led transformative justice processes that focus on challenging and transforming the perspectives of people who do harm in our neighborhoods, as well as counseling and peer support services for survivors of violence
  • Rapid incident responses that may include community alerts, town hall meetings, neighborhood safety events, and will also create space for targeted school-based and neighborhood education across multiple identities.

“No group in New York City is immune from the alarming increase in hate crimes here, and all New Yorkers must come together to combat this epidemic. We need to support the community-based organizations that are on the ground in the impacted communities, ensuring they have the resources to help prevent and respond to the terrible acts of bias impacting so many,” said City Council Member Mark Levine.

Donovan Richards and Mark Levine speaking to the crowd
Council Members Donovan Richards and Mark Levine speak at HVPI Press Conference at City Hall, March 27, 2019

“At this urgent juncture in our history, with anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of racist, xenophobic, and homophobic hatred on the rise across the planet, I‘m so deeply encouraged to see Jews, Muslims, immigrants, people-of-color, LGBTQ New Yorkers and so many others coming together to combat hate, strengthen compassion across difference, and build a city where all of us can thrive,” said City Council Member Brad Lander.

Brad Lander addressing the crowd
Council Member Brad Lander speaks at HVPI Press Conference at City Hall, March 27, 2019

“At the end of the day, truly addressing hate crimes is not simply a question of law enforcement, it’s about building solidarity between all communities. Acts of hatred and violence cannot be eradicated by force. Building a sense of trust and understanding across our city, and country, is a highly complex and long-term endeavor, but it’s the only real way forward. Thank you to Jews for Racial and Economic Justice and all of its partner organizations for advocating a far more holistic, and ultimately effective, approach,” said City Council Member Helen Rosenthal.

Brad Lander and Helen Rosenthal speaking to the crowd
Council Member Helen Rosenthal speaks at HVPI Press Conference at City Hall, March 27, 2019

“The Hate Violence Prevention Initiative is an important grassroots effort to prevent and reduce hate violence and bias incidents across New York City. This new initiative recognizes that many vulnerable and marginalized New Yorkers are much more likely to report hate violence and bias incidents to trusted local organizations in their communities than to the police or other law enforcement agencies. The Hate Violence Prevention Initiative will help ensure that survivors of hate violence receive the support they need to heal and recover. And it will give our communities crucial tools and resources for transforming the perspectives of those who cause bias-related harm in our communities,” said Monifa Bandele, a leader of Communities United for Police Reform (CPR).

Barat Ellman and Audacia Ray speaking to the crowd
Rabbi Barat Ellman (speaking), Audacia Ray, New York City Anti-Violence Project (background center)

“When LGBTQ people experience hate violence on the street, at home, or on the job, they want to be sure that the person they report to affirms not only their experience but also their identities. That’s why 282 LGBTQ survivors reported hate violence to AVP’s hotline in 2017 while 325 people across all identities reported hate crimes to the NYPD. Community based organizations, like the New York City Anti-Violence Project, are best positioned to support survivors of violence, and city council must fund us to do this work. We know what we need, and it isn‘t more policing,” said Audacia Ray, Director of Community Organizing and Public Advocacy at the New York City Anti-Violence Project.

“The Center for Constitutional Rights stands in solidarity with our community-based partners, who are leading transformative practices without dependence on law enforcement,” said CCR Advocacy Program Manager Nahal Zamani.

“I know my community in Queens. I know that there is kindness and cooperation, and also that there is antisemitism. We need to find solutions that are restorative and preventative. We need to find ways for neighbors to see a path forward where we understand our differences, and stick up for one another anyway. The NYPD can only come in once the damage is done, and too often, an approach that relies on the criminal justice system just creates more pain and resentment. The smart, effective, community-based approach of the Hate Violence Prevention Initiative is exactly what we need in Western Queens,” said Rabbi Rachel Goldenberg, founder of Malkhut and co-chair of the JFREJ Rabbinic Council.

“Violence is strangling our communities and diminishing all of us. Disrupting hate violence means we get into every single community and support the people who are on the front lines confronting sexism, homophobia, transphobia, racism, Xenophobia, Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism. This is a call to action—not just for our communities who are targeted, but for allies. Join us and be Upstanders to violence.” said Loren Miller, Executive Director, Center for Anti-Violence Education.