Iowa City Expands Hate Crimes Ordinance To Include Harassment, Trespass

Jul 2, 2019

Iowa City has expanded its hate crimes ordinance to include harassment and trespassing. Under the new policy, people who target others based on their protected class can face fines and minimum jail time for the offenses.

The change comes as some in the community are reporting an increase in hateful driven incidents, said Iowa City Police Chief Jody Matherly.

"We have had a rise in hateful-type acts, not all of them hate crimes. But more flyers being distributed that says, 'it's ok to be white' or maybe directing folks to a white supremacist internet page," he said.

According to Iowa City Police Department data, the agency is seeing more reports of hate crimes, with six calls for service in 2017 and 14 in 2018.

Matherly said the ordinance would not prohibit free speech, but would enhance penalties for instances of harassment and trespassing that are driven by hate. Under the newly expanded policy, a first offense for a hate crime can result in a fine of between $300 and $625 and between three and seven days in jail; a second offense can mean a $625 fine and 30 days in jail. 

Matherly pointed to an example in the community of a Congolese family being targeted as an instance of how the ordinance could come in to play.

"Someone says go back to your country, we don't want you here. They're targeting them because of their ethnicity or their race. Those are the kind of situations where this law would apply," Matherly said. "So yes, we've had those happen."

The state of Iowa's hate crimes law does not cover harassment or gender identity. Under Iowa City's policy, protected classes include "actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, disability or marital status."