Alliance to host talk on hate crimes
The West Linn Alliance for Inclusive Community and the West Linn Public Library will host a special presentation next week called "Hate Under Law: Free Speech, Bigotry and Oregon."
The features speaker will be Aaron Knott, legislative director for the Oregon Attorney General's Office; the event is scheduled from 4 -5 p.m. on April 10 at the library, 1595 Burns St. in West Linn. The presentation is free and open to all.
In the 10 days following the 2016 presidential election, Oregon ranked 10th highest in the nation for hate-relaterd incidents. By March 2017, the notch moved even higher: Oregon led the nation with the highest number of documented hate crimes and bias incidents.
According to Knott, "the idea of hate crime exists nowhere in the law." Instead, there is a patchwork of often competing legal penalties and definitions, all of them limited by some of the strongest freedom-of-speech protections in the country.
"It's a slippery slope" to find ways of protecting victims of hateful acts as "we duct tape our way around the laws," Knott says.
Before joining the Oregon Department of Justice, Knott served six years as deputy district attorney in Multnomah County. He also has worked as an attorney in private practice and for Mercy Corps. He holds a law degree from the University Of Minnesota School of Law.
Formed in July 2016, the Alliance is a grassroots group of neighbors working to ensure that all people in West Linn have equal opportunities to participate in the quality of life the city offers; that all neighbors are safe from hate crimes, abuse or harassment; and that no person or group is subjected to discrimination, bigotry or prejudice.
Members of the volunteer group actively collaborate with local government, schools, neighborhood associations, and faith and civic organizations to address issues of discrimination and racism. The Alliance is open to all interested West Linn residents. Learn more online at westlinnalliance.org.