Hundreds attend anti-hate crime rally in Austin
It was an impassioned sight at Austin City Hall on Saturday, Feb. 27, as nearly a thousand people gathered for the "Austin March Against Hate," a rally that retraced the steps of two gay men who were beaten in a parking garage a few days earlier.
The march highlighted the connection between Austin’s LGBT residents and the city’s police department, but the event also revealed growing concerns about the way the state handles possible anti-LGBT hate crimes.
According to police, officials must investigate the incident as an assault. The responsibility to prosecute it as a hate crime falls under the Travis County District Attorney’s jurisdiction.
Chuck Smith, interim execute director of Equality Texas, said while the APD is doing their due diligence in this case, more clarity is needed when recording the evidence.
"There’s confusion in the public, at times I think there’s confusion among the law enforcement agencies in terms of how to report, how to investigate, what to look for, what to ask, and the whole process of investigating a hate crime," he said.
Since Texas lawmakers passed the James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2001, officials have prosecuted only 12 out of the 1,800 reported hate crimes. Smith said over the past three years, reports have shown there has been an increase in both bias motivated crimes and crimes with regard to sexual orientation.
So what’s the best solution?
Smith suggests even though police can’t technically decide the classification, they should make sure they conduct a thorough investigation.