The Urban League of the State of Arkansas (ULSA) is launching a new campaign aimed at passing hate crime legislation in the state.
Entitled ‘AR United Against Hate,’ the campaign will officially kick off on Thursday, April 1. USLA officials, joined by partner organizations, will hold a campaign launch event that day at the Arkansas State Capitol.
“The recent hate-based attack in Hot Springs, Arkansas by a Bentonville fire captain is a wake-up call that the time to bring hate crimes legislation to Arkansas is now. Arkansas needs enhanced hate crime legislation that protects all Arkansans, not some,” ULSA president Scott Hamilton said in a statement.
Hamilton’s comment refers to Captain Benjamin Snodgrass who resigned from the Bentonville Fire Department on March 23 after being arrested for assaulting an Asian man in Hot Springs. According to media reports, Snodgrass was charged with misdemeanor battery and public intoxication.
The campaign is aimed at creating enhanced hate crimes legislation in Arkansas; improving law enforcement training for hate crime identification, response and reporting; improving data collection and reporting for hate crimes and requiring that cities report hate crime data to the state and to the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and to increase public awareness and education on hate crime violence.
During the 93rdGeneral Assembly in 2021, the legislature has not passed a hate crimes bill sponsored by state Sen. Jim Hendren, which has been supported by Gov. Asa Hutchinson. According to the Arkansas State Legislature website, the last official activity on the bill took place on Jan. 11 when it was read the first and second times and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Under this legislation, offenders would receive enhanced penalties for crimes that are committed due to an individual’s “race, color, religion, ethnicity, ancestry, national origin, homelessness, gender identity, sexual orientation, sex, disability or service in United States Armed Forces.”
Currently, Arkansas is one of only three states that has not passed a hate crimes law. The other states are South Carolina and Wyoming.
The AR United Against Hate launch will take place Thursday, April 1 at 11:30 a.m. at the Arkansas State Capitol.