In an effort to combat hate crimes and discrimination, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday pledged to expand the state’s human rights laws, establish a new legal defense fund and create a specialized New York State Police unit.
The governor's announcement comes after a series of news reports on incidents involving racist graffiti sprayed on sites in Westchester and Rockland counties and in New York City in the wake of Donald Trump's election to the presidency.
Cuomo's pledge came as he spoke before the congregation at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City about the post-election climate and what he said is a recent uptick in reports of discrimination, bias-motivated threats, harassment and violence across the state.
"New York is, and will always be, a place of acceptance, inclusion and a bastion of hope for all people," Cuomo said, according to a statement from his office. "We will never allow fear and intolerance to tear at the fabric of who we are – New Yorkers are stronger than that, and we are better than that.”
Under the three-part plan, legislation expanding human rights laws in the state will aim to “protect all students,” according to the statement.
Under the current law, only private school students are protected by the Human Rights law, according to the statement, which added that public school students who feel they have been discriminated against currently have no legal grounds to make such a claim.
Another element of Cuomo’s plan calls for the establishment of what he said will be the nation’s first emergency public/private legal defense fund to ensure all immigrants – including those who are in the United States illegally – have access to legal representation, according to the Governor’s Office.
Cuomo said the initiative will be administered by the state’s Office for New Americans and be run in partnership with major colleges and universities, law firms, legal associations and advocacy organizations.
The primary piece of Cuomo’s plan calls for New York State Police to create a new Hate Crimes Unit, according to the Governor’s Office.
The unit is to consist of investigators from across the state who have been trained as bias crime specialists, Cuomo said, adding that the unit will coordinate with local District Attorneys to provide support during prosecution of hate crimes cases.
The governor urged anyone who has experienced discrimination to call 888-392-3644 between the hours of 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Friday.
Victims of hate crimes are urged to contact the state’s Office of Victim Services .
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