Official: Violations of civil rights still a problemAssistant U.S. Attorney General Tom Perez said he wishes he spent his days sitting around waiting for calls, but he said “the phone is ringing off the hook” with reports of hate crimes, human trafficking, lending biases, discrimination against people with disabilities and bullying.
By: DIRK LAMMERS, The Associated Press
Assistant U.S. Attorney General Tom Perez said he often gets asked why the U.S. Department of Justice still needs a civil rights division, and he wishes he spent his days sitting around waiting for calls like the Maytag repairman from television ads.
But Perez said “the phone is ringing off the hook” with reports of hate crimes, human trafficking, lending biases, discrimination against people with disabilities and bullying.
“These aren’t stories of the ’60s and the ’50s,” he said. “These are stories of today.”
Perez joined several other panelists Monday afternoon at a civil rights conference hosted by Brendan Johnson, the U.S. attorney for South Dakota. Along with the panel discussion before hundreds of people packed into a Sioux Falls theater, the conference included sessions on bullying, the rights of people with disabilities, human trafficking and police and the community.
Johnson said many people in South Dakota believe in civil rights but some do it with a whisper or hush tones in fear of offending those who might not agree. He said the Justice Department wants to help people raise their voices, and he invited people to share their stories with the many law enforcement officers in attendance so they can help fight injustice.
Judy Shepard, whose son Matthew died in 1998 after he was tied to a fence and beaten because he was gay, said members of the gay, lesbian and transgendered community have been relegated to second class citizens in terms of marriage rights and job discrimination.