Marietta City Council pushes for state hate crimes law

Marietta is joining the growing list of metro Atlanta cities formally condemning racism and calling on state legislators to pass a hate crimes law.

City Council unanimously passed resolutions on both Wednesday.

The resolution against racism reads, in part, that Marietta is “saddened, disheartened and concerned by the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota, Ahmaud Arbery near Brunswick, Georgia, and other killings of unarmed men and women of color by renegade law enforcement officers, as well as by vigilantes.”

Floyd died May 25 after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin placed his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes. Chauvin and three other officers have been charged with Floyd’s death, which has sparked protests calling for a nationwide change in policing.

Councilwoman Cheryl Richardson said the resolution condemning racism shows the city will not allow acts of hate to take place in Marietta. She said more can be done and will reach out to Councilman Reggie Copeland, chair of the city’s Public Safety Committee, to determine if Marietta should establish a review board or the city should deal with issues as they are brought forward.

“We have a great police force that is strong in its community engagement, that is highly accredited and well regarded, but you can’t rest on that,” she said. “You’ve got to make sure that (it’s about) what you’re doing today, not what you did yesterday.”

RELATEDCobb takes stand on racism, hate crime law following heated debate

Cobb County and the cities of Acworth, Kennesaw and Smyrna have all passed resolutions denouncing racism. Powder Springs will take up its resolution at its meeting Monday. Around metro Atlanta, Doraville and Snellville have taken similar actions, and the city of Stone Mountain said it will petition the state to pass a hate crimes law.

Marietta's resolution calling on Georgia to pass a hate crimes law speaks to House Bill 426, which passed the House of Representatives last year and is awaiting committee assignment in the Senate. It could be considered by the Senate when lawmakers return next week to complete the legislative session that was suspended in March.

The legislation would provide sentencing guidelines for anyone convicted of targeting a victim because of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability or physical disability.

Councilwoman Michelle Cooper Kelly said Georgia is one of four states with no hate crimes law. The other three states are South Carolina, Arkansas and Wyoming. Kelly said being among those four states is “not the company we want to keep,” and the legislation under consideration cuts across the spectrum of hate.

“This is something for all Georgians, and I’d like to see our state legislature pass this law,” she said.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporters J.D. Capelouto, Amanda Coyne and Maya Prabhu contributed to this article.