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Hate crimes, even today

A neighbor recently reported seeing individuals with white supremacist/neo-Nazi tattoos and related symbols right here in Salem, in the vicinity of 12th Street and Hines. Hate groups have been expanding nationally and in Oregon in recent years. What can we do about this growing problem?

The extent of the problem

Despite Oregon’s reputation as a progressive and welcoming place, hate groups have a long history here. The Southern Poverty Law Center tracks hate groups nationwid, providing an oversight map and annual report.

The Oregonian reported on SPLC’s 2018 list of hate groups in Oregon, including groups which target people based on race, national origin, and religion, along with anti-government groups. They noted that the National Socialist Movement has a branch in Salem.

…he thought removing the man’s turban would disrespect him…

Within SESNA itself, we have had significant hate-driven attacks in recent years. These include the 2017 attack at Al-Aqsa on State Street and the 2019 attack at the 12th Street Market.

The 2017 attack at Al-Aqsa involved a man accusing the owner of being a “terrorist” and holding his wife prisoner, then attacking the owner with a metal pipe.

The 2019 attack at 12th Street Market involved a man attempting to tear off the Sikh owner’s turban and physically attacking him. The attacker told police he thought removing the man’s turban would disrespect him because he was “Hindu and prays to Vishnu the catfish god.”

The 12th Street Market permanently closed a few months later.

Report hate crimes, always

Salem Police Department and the Salem Human Rights Commission have teamed up to create a Core Response Team focusing on hate crimes. The webpage specific to hate crimes is can be found at Help for Victims of Hate Crimes.

According to their downloadable brochure:

Hate or bias activity is defined as any incident, violent or non-violent, that is perceived by the victim or any other person to be biased due to: race, religion, color, sex, marital or familial status, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identify, or source of income.

Reportable actions include:

  • Offensive language, actions or symbols
  • Written or verbal threats
  • Bullying
  • Abusive phone calls, emails, or messages

If a crime has occurred, call the Salem Police non-emergency line at 503-588-6123. If a crime is in progress, call 9-1-1.

If you do not believe a crime has occurred, but have observed hate-promoting graffiti, individuals with hate-group tattoos or patches, etc., please report these incidents to the Salem Human Rights Commission.

Get involved

You can attend monthly meetings of the Salem Human Rights Commission, to provide public testimony, or even apply for a seat on the Commission.

Coming to a SESNA neighborhood meeting or event is a great way to network with neighbors. If that doesn’t work for you, every day presents an opportunity to say hi to a neighbor on the street.

Since 2017, SESNA has provided welcoming yard signs.