Keith Ellison calls on AG to investigate cemetery desecration as hate crime

Marcy Oster

WASHINGTON, DC – FEBRUARY 01: U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) speaks during a news conference in front of the Capitol February 1, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Rep. Ellison hosted the press conference to discuss President Donald Trump’s travel ban, which prevents immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S, and objections to Senator Jeff Sessions’ nomination to the position of Attorney General. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

(JTA) — Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions urging him to investigate the recent desecration of a Jewish cemetery as a hate crime.

Ellison, D-Minn., called on Sessions to designate the attack on the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri, in which more than 150 headstones were overturned and damaged, as a hate crime. Less than a week later, about 100 headstones were toppled at the Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia.

“We cannot afford to ignore the series of recent threats against the American-Jewish community. Anti-Semitism poses a grave threat it to our democracy and every American’s Constitutional right to freely practice their religion,” read the letter dated Feb. 27 and sent on Tuesday.

“While local law enforcement is working hard to identify  the perpetrators, it is evident that a federal Hate Crime investigation is warranted due to the dark history of anti-Semitic attacks of this nature, both here and abroad, and the symbolic message it sends to the Jewish community all over the world,” Ellison wrote.

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Just days before he sent the letter, Ellison lost in his bid to become Democratic National Committee chairman following a race in which he was dogged by suggestions that he is anti-Semitic – based on his involvement with Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam while he was in college. The new DNC chairman, former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, immediately after the election named Ellison as his deputy.

Prior to the DNC election, Ellison in a candidate’s debate called for Democrats to speak out against anti-Semitism and reject hatred of refugees.


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