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Oregon hate crimes report shows rise in incidents and reporting

Protesters carry signs reading "Stop Asian Hate" and "Hate Crime: Say It As It Is"
Kareem Hayes
Hate speech against Asians during the COVID-19 pandemic rose in tandem with targeted violent incidents.

A report from Oregon’s Criminal Justice Commission shows a rise in hate and bias incidents and crimes across the state.

The report combines data from law enforcement, the court system, the state department of corrections, and the statewide Bias Response Hotline. The report has shown an increase in hate and bias every year since it was established in 2020.

“I think it is reflective of awareness and the outreach that we’re doing, and it’s also reflective of an increase in targeting,” said Johanna Costa, the coordinator of the Bias Report Hotline.

The most common types of targeting are against Black and Jewish Oregonians.

While it’s difficult to pinpoint a single cause for the increase in hate incidents, Costa said the elevation of extremist rhetoric is a large part of the trend.

“We’re talking about [the] scapegoating of entire communities becoming more mainstream and acceptable, if you will, to larger segments of our communities,” she said. “And therefore this troubling hate that comes out of that extremist rhetoric.”

That rhetoric is a bellwether for hate-motivated violence.

“We saw it during the height of the COVID pandemic. And, you know, as soon as we saw scapegoating of Asian communities, it was almost immediate that we saw an increase in violent targeting of Asian perceived community members as well as hate speech and other really degrading language that proliferated in our community spaces, again, online and in-person,” said Costa. “And I think that’s just a really clear example for the dominant culture to see, yes, this type of speech is dangerous, and it leads to violence.”

Costa said that compared to previous years, the number of organized hate campaigns in Oregon has gone up. February 2022 was the start of a 15-month period which saw 16 organized hate campaigns across the state.

Costa encouraged people who have experienced a hate or bias incident to report it.

“I think that part of the intent of hate and bias incidents and crimes is to make folks feel like they don’t belong, is to degrade and humiliate and isolate,” she said. “And so I would encourage folks to seek support, no matter where that’s from.”

Oregonians can call the state Criminal Justice Commission’s Bias Report Hotline at 1-844-924-BIAS, or report online at standagainsthate.oregon.gov.

Chrissy Ewald is a freelance reporter for KLCC. She first reported for KLCC as the 2023 Snowden Intern.
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