Iowa City hosts forum on hate crimes


The University of Iowa hosted a forum on hate crime and hate speech Monday. The panel included guests from law enforcement, community activists and members of the university.

Iowa City Mayor Jim Throgmorton was in attendance, showing his support and making sure the importance of the subject to him was conveyed. While he said there hasn't been any "big" or nationally televised incidents of hate crimes in Iowa City, the city certainly has it's fair share of problems.

"Hate flyers, hate stickers posted downtown, derogatory words being used on a stake that was being put in next to a trail in Scott park," Throgmorton said. "That fear gets instilled and then it really undermines the sense of community."

Orville Townsend has been in Iowa City since 1962. He came to town on a football scholarship at the University. He recalls walking across campus and not seeing any other black men on some days. He believes Iowa City has changed since then but to the positive. While he believes there is still work to be done in housing and employment for minorities, what counts is the conversation just like today.

"There are so many positive things happening in our city. It's extremely important to have events like this. I am hoping this will be the beginning of dialogue. I think we are at a point now where we can really community and come together," Townsend said.

According to the FBI's latest statistics, more than 6000 hate crimes were reported nationwide, while only a fraction of this happened in Iowa (17) it's still an alarming trend especially for those continuously involved in community affair. Kevin Kummer is a pastor on campus at the University of Iowa and he believes small steps like this are important to solve a larger issue.

"It's very important for law enforcement and various institutions in the community to be talking about it," Kummer said. "If we are ever going to have a healthy nation and community, we are going to have to talk about our racism and how it shows up in hate crimes and other kinds of abuses.

Mayor Throgmorton delivered the opening remarks for the event, highlighting his commitment to a better Iowa City and to create an inclusive environment for everyone.

"The people of Iowa City are quite diverse and they all need to know that they are safe here in our city," Throgmorton said.

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