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Lawmakers Consider Legislation Following Monsey Attack

WAMC, Allison Dunne
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand; NY Congressman Eliot Engel to the right

Federal and state lawmakers are considering ways to help combat anti-Semitic violence. This comes following the Saturday stabbings during a Hanukkah celebration in Monsey, in Rockland County, and after similar attacks in New York City and New Jersey. New York U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand held a roundtable Monday, where participants discussed needed laws and education.

Democratic Senator Gillibrand’s roundtable at Ramapo Town Hall, in Rockland County, included discussion about potential actions.

“So we’re looking at how we can write legislation to amplify resources to fight against hate crimes. I worked on it over the last several months, specifically on giving law enforcement more tools to find hate crimes, whether it’s through white supremacy or through any other hate-filled group,” says Gillibrand. “We need to hold the social media platforms accountable for being platforms of hate. We’ve seen it in mass shooting after mass shooting that they’re posting their diatribes before they engage in mass shootings.”

She urged platforms like Facebook to shut down hate speech. Democratic state Senator David Carlucci:

“We don’t have to wait for the federal government. We should have legislation that says, if you’re going to operate in New York state that you have best practices, that we make it black and white, that you can’t hide behind ambiguity, that you know that this is hate speech, and we have the ability to take it down,” Carlucci says. “And if the federal government’s not going to lead with that, New York will.”

Republican Rockland County Executive Ed Day was one of the 35 or so who had a seat at the roundtable.

“I think a lot of things that came out in that meeting I think were positive, especially the issue with Facebook,” Day says. “I think there’s sometimes too much focus played on Facebook but, certainly, if our elected officials from the federal government are going to talk about dealing with hate speech, then they’re the ones that have to carry their water and make sure that they do something to deal with any kind of hate speech when it comes to an area such as social media, which would clearly be a federal law.”

Roundtable participant Steve Gold is co-president at Jewish Federation & Foundation of Rockland County. He says there should be federal standards for accountability on social media, and suggested that hate speech be tagged as such. For example, #thisishatespeech. State Senator Carlucci attended the roundtable, saying he had just spoken with state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

“In talking to Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, she’s committed to me that anti-Semitism will be one of the top priorities of the New York state Legislature,” Carlucci says.

Then, there’s education. Carlucci is a co-sponsor of legislation that would require instruction regarding symbols of hate to be incorporated into the curricula for grades six through 12. On the federal level, Gillibrand is co-sponsor of a different measure.

“We need to do more to protect our Jewish communities and combat anti-Semitism, which is at its root,” Gillibrand says. “That is why I have been a champion of the Never Again Education bill, which would provide direct funding for Holocaust education.”

Democratic New York Congressman Eliot Engel is from New York’s 16th District, but represented this community before redistricting.

“So I will do everything that I can as a member of Congress to make sure that not only does this not happen again, but that people who perpetrate these crimes or attempt to do it, frankly, will have the book thrown at them,” Engel says.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo visited Monsey Sunday. He called the attack domestic terrorism and says domestic terrorists should be punished as if they committed acts of terrorism.

“And I want this state to be the first state to have a domestic terrorism law, to express how ignorant this is, how intolerant it is and how criminal it is,” Cuomo says,

He said he will propose the law when he lays out his state-of-the-state address January 8th.

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