Fargo Human Rights Groups Push For Hate Crimes Ordinance

"There's a federal law. There's no state law and there's no city law that would make a hate crime a criminal offense."

FARGO, N.D. (KVRR) — Fargo activist groups coming out to discuss the proposed hate crime ordinance.

“Today was an opportunity to visit with the community about the upcoming ordinance. To provide the context of this ordinance. Why was it developed and the process going forward will be,” North Dakota Human Rights Coalition Organizer Barry Nelson said.

Human rights groups come together to talk about a drafted hate crime ordinance for Fargo.

“There’s a federal law. There’s no state law and there’s no city law that would make a hate crime a criminal offense,” Fargo City Commissioner, Arlette Preston said.

After a year in the works, activists, local leaders and residents have created the language for the hate crime ordinance.

“A person is guilty of an offense if, with intent to frighten or harass another. He makes a phone call anonymously or in offensively coarse language,” Preston said.

Penalties for guilty persons will increase if the ordinance becomes law.

“If a person is charged with a simple assault and it’s a hate crime alongside it, the additional penalties actually doubles,” Preston said.

That means the person could possibly pay an additional $1,500 and/or 30 days in jail. Commissioner Preston lays out the next key date for the ordinance.

“On June 1st it will be a receive and file action and that probably is going to be the most important meeting. That would establish whether there’s a majority there or not,” Preston said.

One of the members at the meeting raised concern about the language in the ordinance.

“Is there anything in there about sending stuff in the mail? Oh, like literal letters. Literal Letters. Oh, good point….Because if that’s not specifically in there that would be a way to get around,” Fargo Human Relations Commission Member Cheryl Schaefle said.

“You can see today that people have lots of questions. They have lots of concerns….I think it still sounds like a work in progress,” Nelson said.

There will be more community meetings to discuss the hate crime ordinance. You can head over to the North Dakota Human Rights Commission’s Facebook page for a schedule.

Categories: Crime, North Dakota News