$15 million earmarked to fend off hate crimes

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

SACRAMENTO — Two days after a fatal shooting at a San Diego County synagogue, California officials pledged millions of dollars to protect religious congregations and other organizations targeted by hate crimes.

Surrounded by two dozen lawmakers, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that his revised budget proposal will include $15 million for grants to nonprofit groups to improve security at buildings — such as mosques, synagogues, churches and LGBT community centers — that are frequented by people at risk of being attacked because of who they are or what they believe.

The security grants, which are based on a federal program, have been made available for the past three years to California churches, schools and women’s health clinics to pay for reinforced entrances, alarms, guards and other safety improvements.

But Newsom said hundreds of applications have gone unfulfilled for lack of money. The state set aside only $500,000 for the program last year.

The California Legislative Jewish Caucus requested the funding increase this month, following an attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, that left 50 people dead and a shooting last fall in which 11 people were killed at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.

“I know it feels on some days like our world is unraveling, like every day we wake up and read about another act of hate-motivated violence. But we cannot accept this, we cannot accept this new normal,” said Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel, an Encino Democrat who is vice chair of the Jewish caucus.

Newsom said California was stepping up to fill a void left by the Trump administration, which has pulled back on federal efforts to counter domestic terrorism. Anti-Semitism is on the rise globally, the governor said, but it has accelerated since President Trump took office.

“Hate has been weaponized,” Newsom said.

On Saturday, the governor tweeted that Trump had phoned him after the synagogue attack and that he “appreciated the call.” Newsom declined to say Monday what he had discussed with the president, but said he hoped the incident “awakens and enlivens his senses” and that the Trump administration considers “domestic terrorism with a greater sense of urgency.”

A 19-year-old man allegedly killed a worshiper and wounded three other people at the Chabad of Poway near San Diego on Saturday, the final day of the Jewish holiday Passover. The shooter was reportedly inspired by the Pittsburgh and Christchurch attacks and has also been accused of setting fire to a mosque in San Diego County last month.

*As adapted from the San Francisco Chronicle*