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Groups denounce hate crimes

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A coalition of seven civil rights organizations denounced what the groups said was a recent rash of hate crimes since the presidential election.

The Anti-Defamation League joined the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and Latino, African-American and Asian-American groups at a news conference Monday to deplore "the rise in hate and violence against our communities," said Janet Murgia, the president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza.

Murgia specifically cited the Nov. 8 murder of Ecuador native Marcelo Lucero on Long Island in New York by seven teenagers who told police they "simply wanted to beat up someone who looked Mexican" and an assault on a Liberian teen on election night in Staten Island, N.Y., by teens shouting "Obama" and racial epithets.

Noting that hate crimes against Latinos and Asian Americans have risen steadily over the past four years, she attributed the spike to the "wave of hate unleashed by the polarized debate over immigration." Murgia noted that the issue was not as significant in the election campaign as had been expected.

"Make no mistake, there is a direct connection between the tenor of this political debate and the daily lives of immigrants in our communities," said ADL Washington counsel Michael Lieberman.

Speakers at the news conference said they had no specific figures documenting an increase in hate crimes over the past few weeks. Lieberman said the quarterly hate crimes statistics compiled by the federal government would not be available until next year, but did say the ADL had recently found "dramatic increases in Internet hate."

News conference participants called for Congress to pass the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, legislation that would expand the number of bias-motivated crimes covered under federal law and allow greater jurisdiction to federal authorities to investigate such crimes.

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