Knowles' response to paintball attacks includes hate crime legislation

Posted: Wednesday, April 18, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- Gov. Tony Knowles said he would propose a hate crimes bill this week and would create a commission on tolerance to combat what he called ''a dangerous corrosion of Alaska's social fabric.''

The measures are among the recommendations of a cabinet-level task force that was put together last month to review the January paintball attack against at least a dozen Alaska Natives in downtown Anchorage by three white youths. Police confiscated a videotape that was made during the attacks.

''I shared with Alaskans across our state the shock, the sadness, the anger we all felt as we witnessed these hate-filled young men as they went, quote, 'hunting for Eskimos,' '' Knowles said at a news conference Tuesday.

Following news reports on the attack Knowles directed Attorney General Bruce Botelho, Health and Social Services Commissioner Karen Perdue, Public Safety Commissioner Glenn Godfrey and Senior Rural Policy Advisor Will Mayo to come up with recommendations to address the problem of racism in Alaska.

The panel is recommending hate crimes legislation that would prohibit the suspension of sentences in hate crimes cases; establish mandatory minimum sentences for hate crimes; set sanctions for juveniles who commit hate crimes and expand the list of factors that allow for imposition of aggravated sentences. It would also allow victims of discriminatory harassment to file civil lawsuits for actual and punitive damages.

Sen. Georgianna Lincoln, D-Rampart, introduced a hate crimes bill last month, but the bill hasn't been scheduled for a hearing. Lincoln said she supports Knowles' efforts.

''My piece of legislation was to get the dialogue going,'' Lincoln said. ''I will be talking with the governor in seeing how we can merge those pieces of legislation.''

With less than three weeks left in the current session, Knowles acknowledged that his bill probably wouldn't get very far this year.

''I think we will be able to address this next year with final action,'' Knowles said.

The panel also recommends that the Department of Public Safety incorporate courses on hate crimes and intolerance in statewide police training. And it recommends that the state encourage schools to adopt guidelines to protect students from harassment and hate crimes.

In addition, the panel recommends that Knowles outline his vision for tolerance and create a commission on tolerance. The commission would hold hearings throughout the state and report back with additional recommendations, Knowles said.

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