Sen. Cory Booker has announced a new plan to combat hate crimes, extremism and white supremacist violence, just weeks after three deadly mass shootings.
The Democratic presidential candidate’s plan, released Thursday, said that, as president, he would work to improve federal and local policies regarding white supremacist violence, make it easier for victims to report crimes and for communities to access resources, and address online platforms that spread hate and violence.
Martin Luther King Jr. “once said that ‘It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me,’” the senator from New Jersey said in a statement. “So in my administration, we will use the full force of the presidency to combat hate crimes and root out white supremacist threats wherever they arise.”
Among other proposals, Booker’s plan includes creating a White House Office on Hate Crimes and White Supremacist Violence, which would be responsible for coordinating federal agencies and community leaders to improve the response to hate-fueled threats. He also proposed creating a group of “community stakeholders” affected by hate crimes to help advise federal institutions including the White House, the Justice Department, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.
The plan also calls for improved data collection on hate crime and white supremacist violence, and it requires the Justice Department and the FBI to prioritize and address such acts in the same way they prioritize international terrorism. Booker also said he’d have the FBI end the “racially motivated violent extremism” category he calls “misleading” and reinstate the specific “white supremacist” designation.
Booker’s proposal builds upon his sweeping plan to combat gun violence, which his campaign boasts is the boldest plan ever put forward by a presidential candidate. That plan, unveiled in May, includes a national gun licensing program, a ban on high-capacity firearms and bump stocks, and an Internal Revenue Service investigation of the National Rifle Association.
The senator’s hate crime plan came about a week after he spoke about gun violence and white nationalism at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, the church where a white supremacist gunman walked in and killed nine African Americans in 2015.
“Each person, each generation has a decision to make: Do you want to contribute to our collective advancement or ― through inaction or worse ― to our collective retrenchment? To our progress or ― through apathy and indifference ― to the violence that threatens to tear us asunder?” Booker said at the church on Aug. 7, just days after a gunman killed 22 people in the border city of El Paso, Texas, a massacre linked to white supremacist writings. “That is the challenge of our generation today. It is the collective crossroads we are at.”
Booker’s plan was released a day after fellow 2020 candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) announced her own plan on the issue. Harris said President Donald Trump has “played coy with white supremacists and shifted resources away from countering violent white supremacist threats.”
Her plan includes allowing federal courts to issue a new “Domestic Terrorism Prevention Order” to temporarily seize the firearms of a suspected terrorist or hate crime perpetrator. It would also require background checks on online gun sales platforms. She also proposed committing $2 billion over 10 years to prioritize domestic terrorism investigations, better monitor online hotbeds for white nationalism and invest in programs that counter hate-based violence.