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Assistant Attorney General Janice Kimble
Assistant Attorney General Janice Kimble

2020 Diversity & Inclusion: Office of the Minnesota Attorney General

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office presented a daylong continuing legal education program on bias and hate crimes for a simple reason: They’re still a problem.

Ellison said he began working with law enforcement, elected officials and religious community members to eliminate
bias-motivated crimes as soon as he got inaugurated in January 2019, in remarks to nearly 1,000 online program attendees.

Hundreds of Minnesotans who attended community listening sessions last year throughout the state expressed bipartisan support for the effort, Ellison said.

“We learned two things,” Ellison told listeners. “We must hold people who commit hate crimes accountable criminally if we can, civilly if we can. But more than that we’ve got to build unity between Minnesotans of all backgrounds. We’ve got to help people see that this kind of behavior cannot be condoned.”

Planning for the program began in late 2019, Assistant Attorney General Janice Kimble said. While the lineup of topics and speakers was in place before the police killing of George Floyd in May, that may have increased interest. Nearly 400 people attended last year’s in-person program.

Kimble worked to overcome technical challenges, logging extra hours with technology staff to make sure speakers could connect online.

Speakers included attorney Jerry Blackwell, who helped win the state’s first full posthumous pardon for Max Mason, an African American man wrongly convicted of an alleged rape in Duluth 100 years ago. Three other Black men were taken from their jail cells, beaten and lynched by a mob in response to the rape allegations, according to the Minnesota Historical Society.

U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald, state Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington and FBI Supervisory Special Agent Michael Melcher discussed prosecuting hate crimes at the CLE.

“If you don’t take a step back and learn a little bit about the fact that bias and hate crimes still do happen even if it’s not publicized or even if it’s not personally in your neck of the woods, it is still happening,” Kimble said.

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