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FBI, Civil Rights Institute to host conference in Birmingham on hate crimes



The historic 16th Street Baptist Church. (Frank Couch/The Birmingham Times)

Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will be the keynote speaker for the opening session of the 2017 annual Conference on Civil Rights and Law Enforcement sponsored by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Birmingham Division, and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI).

The two-day conference will focus on hate crimes. The program begins at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 17, at the historic 16th Street Baptist Church, with Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein delivering his address at 4 p.m.

The conference continues on Monday, Sept. 18, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will include a case study on the 2015 hate-crime massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., from a federal prosecutor and investigators who worked the case. The gunman, a 21-year-old white supremacist, killed nine people during a Bible study at the church. The speakers will include Nathan Williams, who prosecuted the case, Brian Womble, supervisory FBI Special Agent, and Gregory Mullen, the recently retired Charleston Chief of Police. Each will speak about the role he played in the tragic event.

The conference is free, but registration for each day is required at www.bcri.org.

“Hate crimes have devastating effects beyond the harm inflicted on any one victim,” stated Andrea L. Taylor, BCRI President and CEO. “They reverberate through families, communities, and the entire nation.”

“Hate crimes are the highest priority of the FBI’s civil rights program and the objective of this conference is to create open, honest dialogue between law enforcement officials and the community, promote cooperation, and share with the community what a federal hate crime is and how to report it,” said FBI Birmingham Division Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp Jr.

Monday’s session will begin with Dr. Andrew Baer, assistant professor, Department of History, University of Alabama at Birmingham, who will speak about the history of hate. Dr. John Gampher, UAB Department of Psychology, will follow with his presentation, “Inside the Mind of Hate.”

Dr. Shay DeGolier, Outreach and Organizing Specialist with the Southern Poverty Law Center, will deliver Monday’s luncheon address.

Monday’s program also will include a panel discussion addressing what hate looks like from the perspective of various minority communities within the Greater Birmingham metro area. Dr. G. Christine Taylor, Vice President and Associate Provost, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, at the University of Alabama, will moderate the panel.

FBI Special Agent Gerome Lorrain, Jackson Division, will conclude Monday’s session with a case study on the 2015 death of Mercedes Williamson, which resulted in the first conviction on federal hate crime charges arising from the murder of a transgender woman.

For more information on the conference, contact Paul Daymond, at pedaymond@fbi.gov  or (205) 279-1457, or Charles Woods III, at cwoods@bcri.org or 205-328-9696 x246.