New Hate Crimes Law Would Extend to Homeless

Just when we thought hate crimes laws couldn’t get more stupid, they did. A new law proposed by the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless would treat assaults on homeless persons as hate crimes. This was inspired by a series of YouTube videos in which someone named the ‘bum hunter’ roams the streets looking for homeless people, whom he beats and brands. What those videos depict is obviously repulsive, but, as with all alleged hate crimes, we must point out that these activities are already covered under things under assault laws. Why not just get some extra police details in the problem areas? Or use the videos to find the assailants? Why do the homeless advocates have to drag political ideology into this? Well, one advocate of the bill told NBC 10 that these are hate crimes because they are targeting a specific group of people. But if we’re lowering the bar that far, that certainly dilutes the whole idea of hate crimes—not that we liked the idea of hate crimes in the first place, but at least there was some rationale behind it. For example, older people and those who are unemployed tend to get robbed more often than other groups. Are we now going to treat those as hate crimes as well? The other point is more fundamental: the violence being done against the homeless in that video does not reflect hate, it reflects indifference. The delinquent who goes around hunting bums clearly does not care enough about them to hate them.


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