Morris officials are investigating several reports of hate messages left at residents’ homes with the message, “white lives matter.”
Morris Mayor Chris Brown and Morris Police Chief Alicia Steffes released a statement denouncing recent “messages of hate and intolerance” residents have discovered on their property.
In the last few weeks, residents have returned home and found bags filled with rice and a “white lives matter” flyer on their property, officials said.
Public Information Officer Stan Knudson said these incidents seem to be “targeting random” individuals and not a specific race, ethnicity, or religion.
“Hate crimes and bias incidents don’t just victimize individuals; they can also torment communities. This has no place in our community. Morris is better than the cowards that are spewing hate in our city,” officials said.
The Morris Police Department and city officials’ offices have been notified and all reported incidents have been investigated. At this time, it has been determined that no crimes have been committed, according to a press release.
The Southern Poverty Law Center defines a hate crime” and a bias incident as follows:
A hate crime must meet two criteria: a crime must happen, such as physical assault, intimidation, arson, or vandalism; and the crime must be motivated, in whole or in part, by bias, according to the release issued by Morris officials. The list of biases included in state or federal hate crime statutes varies. Most include race, ethnicity, and religion. Some also include sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, and/or disability.
A bias incident is defined as conduct, speech, or expression that is motivated by bias or prejudice but doesn’t involve a criminal act, according to the release.
In a statement, officials said, “As a community, administration, police department, and public servants we embrace celebrate, and take great pride in being a city that shows its residents, neighbors, and strangers alike, kindness, tolerance, and respect. Together, the City of Morris will stand shoulder to shoulder against this act of cowardice which is meant to divide and weaken our core values.”
A Freedom of Information Act request has been made for a photo of the alleged offensive material by the Morris Herald-News.
Anyone who has been targeted by a hate crime or bias incident should report it to the Morris Police Department at 815-942-2131.