2016 | News

Leventhal: Denouncing Hate Crimes Has Nothing To Do with Politics

Community event scheduled for Sunday, Leggett says

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Council member George Leventhal says anti-hate resolution doesn't criticize people's political views.

Douglas Tallman

A Montgomery County Council resolution denouncing bigotry and hate crimes adopted Tuesday has nothing to do with politics, council member George Leventhal said Tuesday.

“We’re not here to criticize people’s political views. We’re absolutely not here to denounce a political party or a candidate,” Leventhal said at a press conference after the council adopted the resolution. “We’re here to denounce conduct that is harmful to civility and our ability to get along. … We are not making a partisan statement.”

All nine council members signed the resolution that called the county a “citadel of justice,” which was passed during their morning session after several days of incidents that included racial slurs and swastikas drawn on walls at Bethesda and Silver Spring schools, and the defacing of signs at two churches in Silver Spring.  Most of the incidents have come in the wake of Republican Donald Trump's election last week as president.

The council conducted an unusual afternoon press conference, also attended by County Executive Ike Leggett, to discuss the resolution. In it, the council rejects bigotry, homophobia, anti-Semitism and xenophobia. The county will be an inclusive community where all people are treated with respect.  It says Montgomery County police will play no role in enforcing federal immigration laws. The resolution also says the county’s 311 system will have instructions on how to report and deal with hate crimes.

Leggett said the county has seen intolerable acts of intimidation.

“I can say sadly that we have taken a step back, not a step that I would think is a permanent step, but a very decisive step back. That is unacceptable,” Leggett said.

Leggett also announced the county was working with the local faith community to plan an event Sunday in Silver Spring so community members can express the intent of the council’s resolution.

Leggett spokesman Pat Lacefield said the event would start at 2:30 p.m. and take place either inside the Silver Spring Civic Building or on Veterans Plaza, depending on the weather. The lineup of speakers had not been chosen yet.

The council has passed similar resolutions, the most recent in January. Those, however, focused on deportation threats against county residents.

A section of Tuesday's resolution restates the county’s long-held position that its police department would not help enforce federal immigration laws, a position that could threaten federal financial support. Trump has said his administration would not provide financial support to so-called sanctuary cities.

“If it means a loss of dollars, we’ll have to analyze that very carefully,” Leggett said. “But this is not a question of dollars and cents at this point in time, this is about doing what is right. So from my perspective, if I’m faced with the choice of having to lose some federal dollars and run the risk to having our citizens treated in an undignified way, disrespected, to be hauled off to jail, and separated [from their] families, I’ll have to lose the dollars.”