Omaha City Council Approves Hate Intimidation Ordinance

June 12, 2020, 1:58 p.m. ·

On Tuesday the Omaha City Council voted to add a hate crime law to the municipal code.

The vote comes just two weeks after the police killing of George Floyd, sparking nationwide protests against police brutality and racism. But the ordinance was actually proposed in early May.

City officials including Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert, the Omaha police chief, and the Omaha human rights director signed a letter to the Omaha City Council asking them to consider the ordinance.

City Council member Aimee Melton said city officials have been working on various discrimination issues for some time now.

"We were already trying to address situations in regards to racism here in the city before it got all the national attention from the horrible murder in Minneapolis," Melton said. "It shows that we were really working towards some of these things before this broke out."

She said graffiti and property damage at Omaha synagogues sparked the idea of a hate crime ordinance.

"And so really that's kind of what got us looking at, well, what do we have in the city ordinances that gives someone that extra responsibility that they should be taking when they are doing something against somebody for their gender, race, gender identity, disability, and all of those protected classes," Melton said.

Someone can only be charged with hate intimidation if they use hateful speech in connection with a crime against someone in a protected class.

Melton said the ordinance will go into effect 15 days after the mayor signs it.