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Police Accountability Advocates Condemn Harmful S335 Bill Voted Out of State Senate Codes Committee Today

Bill undermines hate crimes legislation, racial justice and police accountability efforts, advocates warn

Albany, NY – Today, Communities United for Police Reform (CPR), racial justice, LGBT, police accountability and other progressive advocacy groups condemned a State Senate bill that seeks to undermine New York state’s hate crimes law. 

S.335 (Akshar) was voted out of the New York State Senate Codes Committee. CPR and others groups blasted members of State Senate who voted to advance the bill.

“This bill is part of a dangerous right-wing effort to undermine hate crimes legislation, racial justice, and police accountability. State Senators who voted for this bill are helping to advance misinformation and promote the false narrative that attacks against police officers are increasing. Let’s be clear: hate violence is real, it's growing, and hate violence harms New Yorkers of color, Jewish New Yorkers, Muslim New Yorkers, LGBT New Yorkers, and others, on an increasingly regular basis,” said Monifa Bandele, a spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform (CPR). 

"S335, advanced by Republicans, along with Senators Savino and Kaminsky, undermines New York's hate crimes law at a time when communities experiencing hate violence are facing a dangerous increase in violence and attacks.  The hate crimes law is meant to protect New Yorkers who are members of groups that have historically been subjected to marginalization and/or discrimination, and a person's employment is no basis for such protections. Offenses against police and first responders are already covered within the state’s Penal Law, including enhanced penalties statutes. It is profoundly inappropriate to equate police with groups who face discrimination based on immutable traits. S335 trivializes the unique and specific vulnerabilities of historically persecuted groups to score cheap and dangerous political points,” said Bandele of CPR. 

“Senators who voted to advance S335 out of the Codes committee are supporting rhetorical political theater instead of policies we need to keep all New Yorkers safe - this is outrageous. It is also disappointing that Senators Gounardes and Biaggi voted without recommendation instead of voting against this harmful measure. We urge Senate leadership to ensure that S335 does not advance further this session. Instead of advancing a harmful measure that perpetuates fear mongering, the State Senate should pass the Safer NY Act – a package of sensible bills that will increase police accountability and public safety throughout New York,” said Bandele of CPR. 

Below are statements from additional organizations that oppose S.335.

“This bill is a right-wing political trap that undermines the basic civil rights of Black, Brown, LGBTQI, immigrant and other individuals who hate crime laws are designed to protect. Police officers who are on the front lines every day are already a specially protected class under New York law. S335 does nothing to improve the safety of communities or officers. Instead, it is rhetorical politics straight out of the right-wing Trump playbook. The Senate Democrats should see this for what it is - and refuse to let this bill move forward,” said Mary Clark, Southern Tier Regional Director, Citizen Action of New York.

"The New York City Anti Violence Project is the oldest and largest crisis organization serving LGBTQ and HIV-affected survivors of violence in New York. For the last 38 years, we have worked with queer and trans communities of color to ensure survivors are receiving the care and support they need when experiencing interpersonal and state violence. The advancement of S335 not only undermines this legacy of anti-violence work, but also threatens the safety of New York’s LGBTQ communities. By advancing this bill, Republicans and those who voted with them have signaled that they are willing to diminish important legal protections for LGBTQ New Yorkers, and other communities vulnerable to hate violence,” said Lynda Nguyen, Senior Manager of Community Organizing & Public Advocacy at the New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP).

“AVP has fought alongside other organizations and groups including Communities United for Police Reform to ensure LGBTQ people have our rights and protections be taken seriously by the legislature. Advancing A335 does nothing but put us at further risk of increased state violence and guarantees unneeded protections for a group of people without any precedent of historical bias. This legislation will create division and undermine safety in communities across the state, particularly within LGBTQ communities whose experiences of hate violence are on the rise.  We urge the New York State Senate to stand with LGBTQ New Yorkers and not to further advance S335. Instead we call on them to support commonsense police reform efforts and pass the Safer NY Act this session," said Nguyen of AVP.

"The ostensible purpose of hate crimes laws are to protect members of historically marginalized, persecuted or discriminated-against groups when they are attacked because of these identities. Police are among the most powerful state actors and clearly are not a historically marginalized group. To include them as such would trivialize the vulnerability of communities currently protected by existing hate crimes laws, setting a dangerous precedent at a time of increased exposure and violence affecting many of these communities," said Alyssa Aguilera, Co-Director of VOCAL-NY. 

"The priorities of our communities are to ensure transparency and accountability for policing practices that harm, dispossess, separate, cage, and marginalize our communities. Unfortunately, it's clear this legislation is a direct response to communities organizing for criminal justice reforms advanced to the mitigate and root out the inherent racial injustices embedded into the system. This bill seeks to promote the myth that police officers are increasingly the subject of violence, when data shows this is false. This bill is not intended or necessary to keep first responders in the state safe. The state Senators that advanced this legislation out of conference are advancing a harmful measure that perpetuates a dangerous myth that will harm our communities. Our communities need to be protected from discriminatory public policy and practices and it can't come at the expense of new laws intentionally created to silence and undermine our efforts," said Kesi Foster, Organizer at Make The Road New York.

“Where is the logic in adding government employees who have a license to kill to those protected by hate crimes legislation, when those who fall into the traditional “protected categories” – people of color, the LGBTQ community, those with disabilities and others – are all too often the ones targeted by the police? The Senate Codes Committee vote today was a slap in the face to families who've lost loved ones to police and all New Yorkers who are members of traditionally marginalized communities,” said Loyda Colon, Justice Committee Co-Director.

“Just days after the Jewish community witnessed the murder of Lori Gilbert Kaye and the shooting of three others while they prayed at their synagogue — and just days after Yom Hashoah — it is utterly insulting that the New York State Senate would even consider S335. Jews in Europe and the United States have suffered unimaginable hate violence for centuries. We have endured this violence because of who we are — not what we do. Diluting the meaning of the hate crimes statute puts our community at risk by conflating a career choice with an indelible human identity,” said Leo Ferguson of Jews For Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ).

"The Arab American Association of New York strongly condemns the passage of S335, which would expand protected categories of hate crimes legislation to include police and first responders. This is an insult to truly vulnerable communities, many of whom are disproportionately targeted by the people S335 proposes to protect. It threatens our safety and ignores systemic violence. If this bill is passed, it will give even more power to those who already have it, and it will put our impacted communities at risk," said Rama Issa-Ibrahim of the Arab American Association of New York.


About Communities United for Police Reform

Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) is an unprecedented campaign to end discriminatory policing practices in New York, and to build a lasting movement that promotes public safety and policing practices based on cooperation and respect– not discriminatory targeting and harassment.

CPR brings together a movement of community members, lawyers, researchers and activists to work for change. The partners in this campaign come from all 5 boroughs, from all walks of life and represent many of those unfairly targeted the most by the NYPD. CPR is fighting for reforms that will promote community safety while ensuring that the NYPD protects and serves all New Yorkers.

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