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Attorney General Lockyer Expresses Concern for Civil Rights

Monday, September 17, 2001
Contact: (415) 703-5837

(WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif.) – Acting on reported threats against Arab and Muslim Americans, Attorney General Bill Lockyer today called on Californians to embrace unity and avoid venting anger on innocent Americans of Middle Eastern descent for the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

"This is a time of immense grief, yet even in our grief we cannot condone or ignore acts of anti-Arab hate violence," Lockyer said. "Arab and Muslim Americans are as much victims of the past week's barbarism as Americans of other ethnic backgrounds. As Americans all, we must come together at this time and trust in the concerted efforts being taken to identify those responsible for the terrorist attacks and the justice being sought by the United States government."

Since last week's national tragedy, there have been increasing reports in California of the harassment of Arab Americans, Muslim Americans, Afghan Americans, Sikhs, South Asians and others mistaken for Arabs or Muslims. More than a handful of incidents are being investigated in Los Angeles, San Francisco and other areas.

"We must win the war against terrorism without caving in to hate crimes and without sinking to the level of terrorists who work to instill fear and hate in entire communities," Lockyer said, joined by a coalition of organizations representing various religious faiths and ethnic backgrounds.

The Attorney General said the California Department of Justice is prepared to work with local law enforcement agencies to respond to acts of hate violence that might be committed in response to the horrific events of this week. Lockyer also praised the community groups working for unity and understanding in the aftermath of the national tragedy.

"California draws immense strength from its diversity of races, religions and cultures," Lockyer said. "We in California should not forget the lessons of over a half century ago when innocent Japanese Americans were targeted by hate mobs after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. It was wrong then to vent anger against people simply for their ancestry, and it is wrong now to lash out against innocent Californians who are or appear to be of Middle Eastern descent."

The Attorney General released at the news conference three new translations of "Preventing Hate Crime" – in Punjabi, Arabic and Hindi. The brochures also are being made available on the Attorney General's Civil Rights web site: http://caag.state.ca.us.

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