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Holder again urges stronger hate-crime legislation

  • Story Highlights
  • Attorney general addresses Washington Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights
  • "Over the last several weeks, we have witnessed brazen acts of violence," he says
  • He cites recent shootings in Kansas, Arkansas and Washington
  • Political activism can't justify killings or threats, he says
By Terry Frieden
CNN Justice Department Producer
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Citing three recent fatal shootings fueled by hatred and simmering anger, Attorney General Eric Holder vowed Tuesday a stepped-up effort to enforce civil rights protections, and he renewed his call for expanding hate-crimes laws.

Attorney General Eric Holder says he is focusing on "new challenges and insurgent threats."

Attorney General Eric Holder says he is focusing on "new challenges and insurgent threats."

"Over the last several weeks, we have witnessed brazen acts of violence, committed in places that many would have considered unthinkable: a sacred memorial in the nation's capital, a recruiting station for the nation's armed forces and a church in the nation's heartland," Holder said.

"The violence in Washington, Little Rock and Wichita reminds us of the potential threat posed by violent extremists and the tragedy that ensues when reasoned discourse is replaced by armed confrontation," the attorney general said.

Holder was referring to the shooting death of a security guard at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, said to be by a self-avowed white supremacist; the shooting of two U.S. soldiers in Little Rock, Arkansas, which prosecutors say was committed by a man targeting the U.S. military for what it had done to Muslims; and the murder of a doctor who ran a women's clinic in Wichita, Kansas, said to be by an abortion opponent.

Holder made the remarks to the Washington Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights, a pillar of the traditional civil rights movement.

While promising to fulfill traditional enforcement responsibilities, Holder turned his attention to what he called "new challenges and insurgent threats."

Referring to the killing of Kansas doctor George Tiller, Holder said nothing can justify the act.

"We will not tolerate murder or the threat of violence masquerading as political activism," he said. "And we will do all that we can to deter violence against reproductive health care providers and to prosecute those who commit such violence to the fullest extent of the law."

Holder renewed his call for stronger hate crimes legislation, which includes protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

"I testified in support of stronger federal hate crimes legislation when I was deputy attorney general almost 10 years ago. My friends, that is far too long to wait. Too long to wait for the authority to prosecute offenses motivated by a person's gender, disability or sexual orientation. Too long to wait for the tools necessary to staunch the rising tide of bias-motivated violence directed at the Latino community. Put simply, too long to wait for justice," Holder concluded.

The current legislation that would expand hate crimes protections has passed the House and is awaiting action in the Senate.

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