Orange County Register, August 18, 2017

Rabbi Rick Steinberg chairs the OC Human Relations Commission as they discuss the incident in Charlottesville in Santa Ana on Thursday, August 17, 2017. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Orange County Human Relations Commissioners on Thursday, Aug. 17, called out for a strong response from the county to condemn the hateful violence in Charlottesville, Va., and to take more steps to build peace and understanding between communities.

“When there is hatred, it needs to be called out as such and responded to with a loud voice that is unequivocal,” said Rabbi Richard Steinberg, commission chairman. “If we don’t do that as (the Human Relations Commission), I don’t know what business we are in.”

Steinberg became emotional as he described his feelings as a Jewish man listening to anti-Semitic chants and seeing flags bearing the swastika, the symbol of Adolf Hitler’s regime that exterminated 6 million Jews in the Holocaust.
“We need to find ways to have peaceful conversations,” he said.

This is a critical time for law enforcement to “embrace diversity and promote community partnerships,” said Irvine Police Chief Mike Hamel, who is also on the commission.

“We need to find creative ways to touch and be responsive to every single person in the community,” he said. “Community policing can’t just be a tagline or buzzword. We need to build that mutual trust, respect and confidence between the community and law enforcement.”

Commissioner Mark Miller said he was most struck by the “resilience and compassion” shown by the parents of 32-year-old Heather Heyer, who was killed when a car driven by an Ohio man plowed into a crowd in Charlottesville Saturday, Aug. 12. Heyer was among a crowd protesting the white nationalist march.

Commissioners made their statements on a night when they also approved the 2016 Hate Crime Report, which showed that hate crimes in the county rose from 44 in 2015 to 50 in 2016 and hate incidents increased from 43 in 2015 to 72 in 2016.

OC Human Relations, the nonprofit that partners with the commission to publish the report, plans to hold an event titled “Keeping Peace in Our Communities” with the goal of educating participants about how they can respond to the increase in hate in a non-violent manner.

The seminar will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 24 at 1300 S. Grand Ave., Building B, Conference Room A/B. Information and RSVP: 714-480-6570 or