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Feds in Virginia to step up civil rights enforcement

July 1, 2021 GMT

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — Federal prosecutors in Virginia are devoting additional resources to prosecuting hate crimes and other civil rights cases.

Acting U.S. Attorney For the Eastern District of Virginia Raj Parekh announced Thursday the creation of a civil rights team within the office’s criminal division. Prosecutors will investigate hate crimes, bias-related incidents, and alleged law enforcement misconduct, among other crimes.

“Every individual has the right to enjoy their lives free from violence or discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, disability, or any other protected basis,” Parekh said in a written statement.

The team’s creation builds on the establishment last year of a civil rights unit that had focused primarily on civil matters related to the rights of military servicemembers and those with disabilities. That unit is also expanding its role to monitor housing discrimination as well as law-enforcement and correctional entities that engage in a pattern of unlawful conduct.

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Parekh said the team’s creation is also in line with mandates from Attorney General Merrick Garland to respond more vigorously to allegations of hate crimes and other bias-related incidents.

The Eastern District of Virginia is headquartered in Alexandria and has offices in Richmond, Newport News and Norfolk.