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Ohio Vigil for Justice: Hope Where There Was Once Hate

July 24, 2009

Cincinnati - Racially-motivated crimes are on the rise, with Ohio ranking seventh in the United States in the number of hate crimes. Hundreds will gather at noon today in a Cincinnati suburb to draw attention to the growing problem and bring awareness to the need for racial equality. Just over a year ago, the Mt. Vernon neighborhood was the scene of a hate crime targeting a young Hispanic boy. That incident will help organizers bring awareness to the rise in hate crimes in the United States.

Ruben Herrera, regional coordinator for the League of United Latin American Citizens of Ohio, says racial tensions occur because people do not take the time to understand others in their own community.

"When people don't know who each other are, when they fear differences - that is a threat to a lot of people and, unfortunately, sometimes that leads to hate crimes."

Herrera hopes to get the dialogue going on ethnic diversity, and wants to establish a comfortable, non-threatening environment for people to come together and speak their minds.

"The answer is with us. We just have to create a time and a space to do that; to start an action plan and it has to happen from within. It has to happen right there in Mt. Vernon and we're hoping that is one of the results of the vigil."

Policymakers should be aware not just of the need for change, he adds, but they also need to understand it's important for the future.

"Somewhere in the priority of things to do, we have to understand that the dignity and the civil rights of every human being has to be the center of everything. It has to do with health care, it has to do with the economy and it has to do with everything else that we are dealing with in this country."

In May 2008, five people using ethnic slurs attacked Hispanic minor Robert Cantu in Mt. Vernon and placed a noose around his neck. Only one individual has been charged in the case. Vigil organizers will highlight the Cantu case so citizens can learn more about how hate crimes have a negative effect on communities.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH