Council members in Hazleton sign letter condemning hate and violence in the community

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May 7—Council members in Hazleton joined a local organization in condemning all forms of hate and bias in the city.

All five city council members signed a letter condemning acts of bias that result in hate crimes or discrimination at the request of Hazleton Advisory Council to Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.

The letter, dated April 26, was issued after members of the local advisory council asked city council in August to consider adopting a resolution that calls on "everyone in Hazleton and the surrounding communities" to take a stand against acts of hate and bias that they say have been occurring across the nation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group also sought assurances from the city that all members of the community are granted equitable access to resources and are afforded equal protection under the law.

Local advisory members have said that the resolution was not created in response to a specific incident, but wanted city council to set a tone for the community.

The original request raised questions from some city council members, including President Jim Perry, who asked why the council needed to adopt a formal resolution when issues raised by the advisory council were not occurring at any level of city government.

Perry, however, said Wednesday that the letter allowed council to accomplish the same goals as a resolution that the advisory council presented months ago. He believes the letter is a better option because council members typically do not sign resolutions.

"It's almost the same thing in letter form and we felt it has more impact than a resolution," Perry said. "We don't sign a resolution so we felt it was in the best interest to do it that way."

In the letter, city council members say they have continually advanced their commitment to equality and inclusion and reaffirmed their commitment to "supporting, promoting, and standing up for the values of inclusion, equality, and justice."

"City Council steadfastly condemns any and all acts of bias that result in hate crimes or discrimination against any person because of race, faith, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, or any other real or perceived difference," the letter reads. "The City of Hazleton welcomes all persons regardless of race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity/expression, ethnicity, religion, disability, or nationality/national origin, and values the contribution they make to our community."

Advisory council members applauded city council's actions.

"I'm very happy to see that they signed it," said Francisco Torres, a local advisory council member who also serves on Pennsylvania Commission on Latino Affairs. "Hazleton is serving as a role model."

Torres said he plans to inform the state commission of the development and share the signed letter at an upcoming meeting.

"Some things speak for themselves," Torres said. "The idea that everybody signed on to that message of unity, how can anybody not like that?"

Elaine Curry, who chairs the local advisory council, said she's thankful that council members took the step to formally denounce hate and bias in the community.

"They are showing true leadership and that we are a community of one," she said.

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