ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX 47) -- It's something weighing on the minds of politicians and the people they serve, the reported increase in the number of hate crimes across the nation and in Minnesota.
Over the past year, Minnesota State Attorney General Keith Ellison has had listening sessions across the state and Tuesday night he was in Rochester, helping to lead a panel on hate crimes. In Rochester, there's been several instances of hate crimes over the past few years, but Ellison says his being in Rochester is not reactive, but proactive.
Numbers can only tell part of a story, but what they're telling right now is the amount of hate has increased in the United States.
"According to the FBI statistics, they've been going up and this is a big concern," said Keith Ellison, Minnesota Attorney General.
So, Ellison spent his evening in Rochester to talk about this disturbing trend.
"We do have a responsibility as prosecutors, police, sheriffs, elected public officials, to come up with ideas to do all we can to make the communities safer, to prevent wrong from happening, or holding people accountable after it does happen," explained Ellison.
He helped lead a panel of several community leaders to talk about their experiences and also listen to those in the community.
"I've been fairly involved in this community in terms of minority statuses and certainly have seen hate crimes and hate rhetoric geared toward myself and other minorities," said Community Interfaith Dialogue on Islam (CIDI) Executive Director, Regina Mustafa.
According to FBI statistics more than 68 percent of all hate crimes in the U.S. were based on race or religious purposes.
"I just try to remind people that Jesus was religiously tolerant," continued Ellison.
In Minnesota that includes the 2017 bombing of a Bloomington mosque, damage done to a Rochester synagogue, and bacon left at a Rochester mosque in 2018.
"Since the 2016 elections the number of known hate groups in Minnesota has doubled, so I think particularly for the Attorney General of our state to come down and really kind of assess the situation in southeast Minnesota is really vital," explained Mustafa.
Ellison believes it's on people to make a difference in their own communities to make them safer and he wants to help empower local leaders to help light the way.
"People look to pastors and community leaders to sort of unscramble a complicated world. So I think when leaders come and they say 'look we believe in liberty and justice for all, everybody is included, nobody is not.' That sends a signal to everyone else and it does have a beneficial effect," said Ellison.
Mustafa says she believes social media plays a large roll in some of the hostility. Several people at Tuesday's panel also added that a lot of hate crimes even go unreported. In front of a packed house, the resounding vibe seemed one of support and love.