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Arizona Civil Rights Board to explore legislation to combat hate crimes

Published: Wednesday, November 22, 2023 - 8:55am

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes called for an emergency meeting of the state’s Civil Rights Advisory Board on Tuesday to explore ways to combat a rise in hate crimes.

Mayes said she asked the board president to convene the meeting to address a “recent surge in hate-based and antisemitic crimes,” according to a statement issued by the Attorney General’s Office. 

The board heard from several individuals affected by alleged hate speech and antisemitism, including Ben Griffith, a Jewish student at Arizona State University. Griffith attended a meeting of ASU’s Undergraduate Student Government last week dealing with a proposed boycott, divestment and sanctions resolution against Israel.

The meeting had to be quickly adjourned after someone threw rocks at a window to the room where the meeting was held, according to the State Press.

“We felt unsafe,” he said. “I don’t know if we truly were unsafe, but we were definitely uncomfortable and I felt unsafe.” 

The board then voted to convene a subcommittee that will study the rise in allegations of hate crimes and propose solutions, including future legislation. That legislation could include the creation of a statewide hate crime statute, something Mayes said she supports.

“We want to send a message that if you attack someone who is Jewish for being Jewish or someone who is Muslim for being Muslim, we’re going to prosecute you,” she said.

Sarah Kader with the Anti-Defamation League also asked the board to support efforts to pass a law to create harsher penalties for targeting a religious institution or a school with what’s known as “swatting”  — the practice of making a prank 911 call to generate a law enforcement response. 

She said individuals have targeted synagogues with Zoom feeds in order to watch the response. 

“They would watch the SWAT team enter the synagogue, and they would be chatting and laughing, and just watching it all happen,” Kader said.

She said she has a meeting set up with state Sen. Anthony Kern (R-Glendale) to discuss the swatting legislation.