It was a full house when over 1,300 legal professionals, community leaders, activists, and non-profit administrators gathered in San Francisco’s famous Bill Graham Civic Auditorium last week. They assembled to learn from leading advocacy groups about how to confront coming challenges to civil rights and equality, combat rising hate crimes and acts of bigotry, advance immigration reform, address challenges to economic justice, protect vulnerable populations, the environment and more.
The event was the brainchild of Kelly M. Dermody, managing partner at Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP, former president of the San Francisco Bar Association, and incoming member of the Honorary Board of ADL’s Central Pacific Region. The program was sponsored by the San Francisco Bar Association and was one of its largest gatherings to date. Participating civil rights partners included the American Civil Liberties Union, Muslim Advocates, Equal Justice Society, Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, Sikh Coalition, National Coalition for Lesbian Rights, Transgender Law Center, Electronic Frontiers Foundation and many others.
Oren Segal, Director of ADL’s Center on Extremism, and Madihha Ahussain, Staff Attorney for Muslim Advocates, discussed hate crimes, anti-Semitism, and the Rise of the White Nationalist ‘Alt Right.’ Ahussain noted that since the beginning of the presidential race, their organization has witnessed the largest spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes since 9/11. Segal likewise noted the uptick in reported post-election anti-Semitic incidents and how white supremacists, who have been emboldened by the presidential campaign, are seeking to mainstream their messages of hate. Segal also discussed an ADL report identifying the scope and source of anti-Semitism directed against Jewish journalists during the presidential campaign. Both Ahussain and Segal stressed the importance of working with social media and other tech companies to find creative solutions to mitigate the exploitation of their services. The panel was moderated by Pawanpreet Kaur, Staff Attorney of the Sikh Coalition.
ADL has been working to address hate on the internet since 1985, when the very first dot-com domain was registered. Segal affirmed that the League is committed to working with our longtime partners, like Muslim Advocates, as well as seeking out new partners to combat new and emerging challenges in this area. “We need to tap the creativity in the legal community to help address these issues,” he stressed.
Other panels included discussions of government targeting of the Muslim community, immigrant rights, LGBTQ equality backlash, protecting people with disabilities and the medically at risk, criminalization of communities of color, reproductive rights, combating domestic violence, protecting workers, environmental protection, and securing voting rights. Guest speakers included New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow, Slate Senior Editor Dahlia Lithwick, and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. The event was closed with a call to action by Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP.