California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) replacement for Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Rob Bonta, held his first press conference via Zoom on Tuesday where he announced he is establishing a Racial Justice Bureau to confront racism, including white supremacy.
“Throughout California’s history, too many of us have felt the sting of hate and discrimination,” Rob Bonta, a Filipino American, said. “The fact is: No part of California is immune to hate. ”
The San Francisco Chronicle reported on the development:
A pandemic-timed rise in crimes and racist incidents against members of the Asian and Pacific Islander communities partially fueled the creation of the bureau, Bonta said over Zoom on Tuesday, but he added that the new unit would do “everything … to better serve the needs of all Californians.”
The Racial Justice Bureau will fall under the California Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Enforcement Section and be composed of six new attorneys and a supervising deputy attorney general. According to a release from Bonta’s office, the bureau will launch and assist investigations into police bias and campus discrimination, as well as conduct more outreach regarding hate crime prevention and reporting.
Bonta said the bureau will also investigate hate crimes and hate groups, including white supremacist organizations, “when appropriate.”
The Chronicle reported that the Stop AAPI Hate organization claimed it tracked more than 6,600 hate-based incidents aimed at Asians between March 2020 and March 2021. More than 40 percent of those incidents took place in California.
The organization said the hate included verbal harassment, physical assault, and online harassment.
“We are in the middle — nationwide, statewide — of a racial justice reckoning,” Bonta said. “It is very important that we all see the longtime, very detrimental and debilitating effects of racism in all its forms, in all the places it exists.”
Bonta also announced his office plans to form a coalition of mayors of California’s largest 13 cities to work together to “discuss regional information sharing and existing resources” to address hate crimes.
The coalition includes the mayors of Anaheim, Bakersfield, Fresno, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, Riverside, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Ana, and Stockton.
“It will take all of us standing up for our wonderfully diverse community members to make California a welcome home for all,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said in a statement.