Senate Votes to Pass Sen. Lesser's Budget Amendment Providing Funds for Security Upgrades at Nonprofit Organizations at Risk of Violent Hate Crimes

BOSTON — The Massachusetts State Senate voted Thursday to approve Senator Eric P. Lesser’s budget amendment providing an additional $500,000 for security upgrades at nonprofit organizations at risk of violent hate crimes. 

The Senate originally approved a fund two years ago to provide these security upgrades, and since then, the rate of hate crimes has continued to increase in Massachusetts and across the country. The FBI has reported a high rate of reported hate crimes in Massachusetts based on race, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation.

Last week, two Jewish Chabad Centers in Massachusetts were set on fire, and earlier this year, 59 gravesites at a Jewish cemetery in Fall River were desecrated.

“Unfortunately, we have seen a troubling rise in hate crimes across Massachusetts. These incidents are meant to intimidate some people in our communities, and they tear at the fabric of who we are as a country based on the equal right of everyone to participate in our democracy. With these security grants for synagogues, mosques, community centers and other organizations, we have made clear that hate has no place in our Commonwealth,” said Sen. Lesser.

At about the same time Sen. Lesser spoke in support of his amendment on the Senate floor, the Vietnam veterans memorial in Dorchester was vandalized for the second time this year.

Senate Majority Leader Cindy Creem and Senate President Emerita Harriette Chandler helped lead the effort to secure the funds.

“In Massachusetts and across the nation those who spew hate and violence, and anti-Semitic views seem emboldened, and acts of violence are becoming all too common,” said Senate Majority Leader Cindy Creem.  “We must continue working to change this tragic reality, and we should never accept it as the norm. However, the funding in this amendment also recognizes the need to ensure that we may worship and exercise our rights and freedoms in safety.”

“Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, bigotry and violence have no place in our society. We must continue to fight for and defend our freedom to worship and live openly and free. It pains me that our world still suffers from xenophobic acts of violence and hatred. But I am proud that the Senate stood up in unanimous support for security grants for nonprofits, because nobody should ever fear for their safety,” said Senate President Emerita Harriette Chandler.

“We congratulate Senator Lesser for leading his colleagues in the State Senate and unequivocally endorsing the right for all people to peacefully assemble and congregate in safety,” said Aaron Agulnek, director of government affairs for the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston. “Our houses of worship, community centers and other institutions must be safe, secure and open. This funding is a strong step towards that goal, but we must do more to challenge the motivation for all forms of hatred. Education and respect, not fortification, is our ultimate hope.”

The Senate budget will now go to a conference committee to be reconciled with the House budget, before a conference committee budget is sent to the Governor.

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Eric Lesser