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Citing Anti-Semitic Incidents in Portland, Oregon Democrats Seek to Toughen State, National Hate Crimes Laws

Anti-Semitic incidents in Portland cited in US Senators' joint statement.

Oregon's U.S. Senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, both Democrats, issued a joint statement today announcing their support for tougher federal hate crimes laws, and cited anti-Semitic incidents described by WW this week.

Related: Neo-Nazi confrontations caught on video in Portland.

The Senators co-sponsored the NO HATE Act, a bill introduced yesterday by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), which provides "incentives for hate crime reporting, grants for State-run hate crime hotlines, a Federal private right of action for victims of hate crimes, and additional penalties for individuals convicted under" the existing hate crimes law.

In their joint statement, Wyden and Merkley cited "a national surge in hate crimes" as well as "anti-Semitic hate incidents across the Portland area [that] were detailed in a Willamette Week story this week."

The federal bill was referred yesterday to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

Separately, the Oregon Senate considered a bill sponsored by state Sen. Lew Frederick (D-Portland) to expand the state "intimidation" statute.

Frederick's Senate Bill 356 would, among other enhancements, rename the crime of intimidation as "bias crime," add gender and ethnicity as protected classes under the law, and allow individuals to be charged for certain bias crimes that now must be must be committed by two or more people to fall under the statute.

The bill had a public hearing yesterday in the state Senate Judiciary Committee. The Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association opposed the bill partly on grounds that it is already "difficult…to discern with accuracy the intent of the actor at the time of an assault."

The full text of Wyden and Merkley's statement follows: