Chattanooga mayor officially launches 'Council Against Hate' amid rise in hate crimes
Mayor Andy Berke officially launched Chattanooga's 'Council Against Hate' on Thursday, in an effort to promote tolerance and diversity in the Scenic City.
The initiative is about a year in the making. Mayor Berke made the announcement in 2018 during his 'State of the City' address.
"People in Chattanooga want something different," he said.
He and other Chattanooga city leaders are hoping to put a halt on hate.
"We see more hatred prevalent in our country with Charlottesville, lots of dissension in our country, the rhetoric on Twitter," he explained.
This comes after the release of new reports by the FBI showing a rise in hate crimes across the nation.
"More hatred is visible in our country than I can remember in my lifetime, and so we want to stand up and say not in our city," he told Channel 3.
Included in the list was the 2015 terrorist attack on two Chattanooga military offices. Five service members died that day.
"It really started with July 16th and the terrorist attack," Berke recalled.
He invited other city leaders who have been faced with the issue to speak on the topic as well like former Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer.
"Charlottesville and the country learned a lot from the Unite the Right rally," Signer said.
After dealing with the white nationalist riots in 2017, he believes this council is an answer to dealing with growing hatred.
"How to confront extremism directly, how to confront intolerance and hate. All of that is what we're seeing in this 'Council Against Hate' that Mayor Berke and so many community leaders here are launching," he continued.
According to the 2015 report, Tennessee ranked ninth highest in the total number of hate crimes, and Chattanooga was one of the cities with the highest number of reported hate crimes, with 10 cases. Berke says his goal is to turn those numbers around with help from the entire community.
"What I'm really hoping is gonna be the ultimate result is that everybody feels it's their responsibility to fight hate. This can't be government's responsibility, or churches or nonprofits, it's got to be all of ours, and it's got to happen everywhere," Berke said.
The council will be led by co-chairs, former Chattanooga city attorney Wade Hinton, and civic leader, Alison Lebovitz.