Residents will soon have legal recourse against intimidation, threats and other crimes targeting people just because of who they are 


LANSING, Mich. (March 19, 2024) — Michigan Senate Democrats voted today to pass Senate Bills 600 and 601, sponsored by Sen. Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit), to strengthen Michigan’s laws against hate crimes.

The legislation will expand state law to prohibit intimidation, harassment and other threatening behavior of someone because of their race, religion, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or age, among other attributes and identities. Senate Democrats first introduced a bill to expand the state’s hate crimes law in 2003 and have continued to fight for the issue over the last two decades.

“Democrats have been working to better protect our constituents and Michiganders around the state from hate crimes for two decades,” said Sen. Santana. “Nobody should be targeted or attacked because of who they are, period, whether it’s physical violence, verbal harassment, or the use of traumatizing symbols and paraphernalia. This legislation will finally bring justice and punishment that is commensurate with the true wounds of these crimes.”

According to the U.S. Dept. of Justice, there were 422 federal hate crime incidents in Michigan in 2022. The overwhelming majority of crimes were specifically against people, and 65.4% were motivated by biases around race, ethnicity and ancestry.

Grosse Pointe Park resident and small business owner Je Donna Dinges has bravely put a face — and a real-life incident — to this issue. In February 2021, Dinges reported that her neighbor, Ryan Wilde, hung a Ku Klux Klan flag in the window of his house facing hers. He also reportedly left a full gas can in the Dinges family’s recycling bin. But because of the ambiguity and weakness of Michigan’s current laws around ethnic and other hate-fueled intimidation, prosecutors declined to press charges.

“We felt terrorized in our own house and feared for our lives,” said Dinges in a previous statement. “I thought the days of the KKK forcing Black families out of white neighborhoods and threatening to burn down Black homes was a thing of the past.”

Dinges has filed a federal lawsuit against her former neighbor. But she and her family are also working to ensure their horrendous experience can drive needed change to state law to stand up against hate crimes once and for all.

In 2021, Dinges partnered with the Grosse Pointes & Harper Woods NAACP to create the Ethnic Intimidation Law Amendment Work Group to develop language that would ultimately provide fuller protection for residents and a wider path to prosecution of violators — and language that ultimately became the legislation passed today. The work group included Democratic senators and staff, other state government officials, Focus: Hope, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. (Detroit Alumnae), Detroit Action, Education Trust Midwest, Grosse Pointe City Council, IBEW Local 58, Michigan United, NAACP Detroit, SEIU Local 1, Wayne County Commission, and the Wayne County Prosecutor.