(WASHINGTON) — Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday announced the Justice Department is taking action to combat hate crimes through the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, mentioning how last weekend’s mass shooting in Buffalo is being investigated as such a crime.
DOJ is investigating whether the shooter who gunned down 10 Black people last Saturday at a Buffalo supermarket targeted the victims because of their race.
Garland told an audience that included Black and Asian community leaders that “an entire community was terrorized.”
“Last weekend’s attack was a painful reminder of the singular impact that hate crimes have not only on individuals but on entire communities,” he said. “They bring immediate devastation. They inflict lasting fear,” he continued.
“We are employing every resource we have to ensure accountability for this terrible attack, to ensure justice for grieving families and provide support for the community,” he said.
Garland pledged to use “every available tool” to investigate hate crimes overall, saying they are “evolving” and that federal prosecutors must evolve strategies to combat them.
DOJ is required to do so by congressional mandate in the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act.
“No one in America should fear violence because of who they are,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said. “This department will not tolerate any form of terrorism, hate based violence or unlawful discrimination.”
DOJ says they are partnering with the Department of Health and Human Services to lay out steps “law enforcement, government officials, community based organizations and others can take to raise awareness of increased hate crimes and incidents, and to use this increased awareness as a tool for prevention and response,” according to a Justice Department official who briefed reporters on Thursday.
One example, the DOJ official said, was addressing the need for language and cultural competency when engaging with communities affected by hate crimes
Garland also announced grant solicitations “including to programs established under the new Hire No Hate Act to support states to create state run hate crime reporting hotline and to support increased law enforcement reporting to the National Incident based Reporting System.”
On the same day as Garland’s announcement, leaders from the NAACP were set to meet with him, and they released a two-page plan to stop another mass shooting.
“We’re focused on preventing the next attack. We need to act. Democracy and white supremacy cannot coexist and will never coexist,” NAACP President Derrick Johnson said in a statement. “It’s one or the other. We’re fighting for democracy.”
An NAACP source told ABC News the “spread of white supremacy across social media platforms” would be a main topic of discussion.
ABC News’ Beatrice Peterson contributed to this report.
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