Proof of hate crime

Last week’s cover story, “Hate Target” by Guy Richardson, hit some nerves in the community—especially the nerves of so-called conservatives.

I realized this last Friday when KKOH’s Rusty Humphries dedicated almost his entire show to a discussion about the piece and, specifically, a brief mention in the story of a syndicated radio talk-show host, Michael Savage, and his views that many people find to be prejudiced and hateful.

The fact that some people believe it’s perfectly OK to mock entire religions and ethnicities is disturbing in and of itself, but especially troubling were the claims by some of Humphries’ call-in listeners that there is no such thing as a hate crime.

All crimes are hate crimes, these people (again, mostly so-called conservatives) say. They couch their beliefs in claims of reverse racism. They say that “hate crime” is a liberal invention that depicts crimes against one group of people as worse than crimes against another group of people.

This was on my mind a few days ago when I took a break to enjoy the spring sunshine with a walk up to the University of Nevada, Reno, to check out the memorial to UNR Police Sgt. George Sullivan. It’s a simple memorial, easy to miss if you’re not looking for it, just a few dozen feet away from the spot where he lost his life one night in January 1998.

Sullivan had stopped by the information kiosk near the college’s Center Street entrance to fill out a report. He had no idea that Siaosi Vanisi was waiting nearby with a hatchet, purchased recently at a Wal-Mart. Several blows to the head later, Sullivan was dead. A woman had lost her husband, his children lost a father and the UNR Police Department lost one of its most respected officers.

All because Vanisi decided that he wanted to kill a white cop. It could have been any white police officer; Sullivan just happened to be the one Vanisi found first.

This was no crime of passion. This was no personal bit of revenge. This was a random murder perpetrated by someone who had an intense hatred for a certain group of people: white cops. Would tougher punishments for hate crimes have prevented Sullivan’s death? Probably not. But could tougher punishments make some other thug think twice about hurting a random person just because of his or her race, religion, sexual orientation or occupation? Possibly.

I encourage everyone who believes there’s no such thing as a hate crime to visit the simple granite bench that memorializes Sullivan’s life. Think about what happened there that night in January 1998. Visualize the brutality of it. Then ponder the anger behind Vanisi’s actions. Think of what a man, a family, a police force and a community lost.

And then try to tell me that there’s no such thing as a hate crime.

Our theater coverage has gotten quite a bit of attention lately, especially after the RN&R last week ran two full-length theater reviews in the same issue for the first time.

The move was necessitated by the fact that a half-dozen plays opened locally within two weekends. That’s an amazing testament to the thriving theater community here. However, I must say that we goofed in that we did not review Reno Little Theater’s production of Lost in Yonkers before it ended its run. We intended for it to be one of the two plays reviewed in last week’s issue, but some miscommunication between our theater reviewers led to our missing it.

While we are under no obligation to review every play, we want to get in as many as we can. And to the folks at Reno Little Theater, we apologize.