Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan Introduces Bill to Strengthen and Equalize Penalties For Using Symbols of Terror

AB 2282 brings into parity penalties for burning crosses, swastikas, and nooses while expanding locations for which the law can be applied

For immediate release:

Sacramento, CA – Today, Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda) introduced legislation that equalizes penalties for using three symbols commonly utilized to terrorize minority groups.

Existing law treats the swastika, the noose, and the desecrated cross as symbols of terror, but metes out different criminal penalties for the use of each symbol. Right now, at least one of these three terror symbols can be used legally in cemeteries, places of worship, public spaces, and public facilities. Using a noose is penalized the most lightly of the three while a burning cross is the most penalized and is barred only from schools and private property.

Those who seek to intimidate and terrorize racial, ethnic, and religious minorities use the noose, burning cross, and swastika strategically. The presence of any of these three symbols can cause an equal level of panic in entire communities and prevent them from feeling safe.

“When we punish a burning cross more than a swastika, we are negating the psychological impact on and physical threat to a targeted group,” said Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan. “With hate crimes increasing across the state, it’s critical to recognize the power and destructiveness of these symbols, and restrict their use accordingly.”

This bill addresses a growing problem. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) crime statistics report that hate crimes surged to the highest level in 12 years in the year 2020[1]. This increase in reported incidents is also likely a mere fraction of the many hate crimes that go unreported and the exact number of hate crimes is estimated to be much greater.

“California must do more to protect communities targeted by hate,” said Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D-Woodland Hills), Chair of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus. “I applaud Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan for her steadfast leadership on this important issue and am proud to support this legislation.”

“Misguided, current law made it legal for a neo-Nazi to sticker the town of Fairfax with swastikas. We applaud Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan for this legislation that closes major gaps in the domestic terrorism law. With this change, Californians can feel safer from dangerous actions by white supremacists,” said the sponsoring organization, NOAH-Marin (Name, Oppose and Abolish Hate).

AB 2282 makes the criminal penalties the same for using each symbol and increases the locations where they are banned to include K-12 schools, colleges, cemeteries, places of worship, places of employment, private property, public parks, public spaces, and public facilities.

By updating this code, we ensure that individuals who spread terror are punished to the proper and full extent of the law, regardless of the symbol they may choose to demonstrate hate.

 

This bill is jointly authored by Assemblymember Marc Levine (D – San Rafael) and coauthored by Assemblymembers Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto), Tasha Boerner-Horvath (D-Oceanside), Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove), Jesse Gabriel (D-Woodland Hills), Jose Medina (D-Riverside), Luz Rivas (D-Arleta), Blanca Rubio (D-West Covina), Chris Ward (D-San Diego), Akilah Weber (D-San Diego) and Senators Ben Allen (D-Redondo Beach), Steve Glazer (D-Orinda), Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), Dave Min (D-Orange County), and Susan Rubio (D-West Covina).

 

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[1] https://www.fbi.gov/news/pressrel/press-releases/fbi-releases-2020-hate-crime-statistics