Special to Iredell Free News

U.S. Attorney Dena J. King announced Wednesday the formation of a new Civil Rights Team within the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which will focus on prioritizing the enforcement of federal civil and criminal civil rights laws across Western North Carolina and enhance the Office’s presence in the community through increased education and community outreach efforts.

U.S. Attorney Dena King

“Our role as federal prosecutors is to ensure that equal protection under the law is a reality for all people living in the Western District of North Carolina,” King said. “The Civil Rights Team was established to prioritize the investigation of potential violations of civil rights statutes, ensure that allegations of wrongdoing are thoroughly investigated, and bring criminal charges and civil enforcement actions when warranted. Communities thrive only when fairness and equality are a reality for all people, and everyone can have equal opportunities, live free from hate, exercise the right to vote without fear, have access to equal justice, and enjoy all the protections guaranteed by federal law. When those fundamental principles are threatened or violated, it is our duty to act.”

The Civil Rights Team comprises federal prosecutors and staff from the Office’s Criminal and Civil Divisions in Charlotte and in Asheville. U.S. Attorney King has appointed a Criminal Civil Rights Coordinator to lead the team’s efforts in investigating and prosecuting criminal civil rights violations, including hate crimes, color of law violations, and human trafficking cases.

King also appointed a Civil Rights Coordinator, who is tasked with prioritizing civil enforcement actions related to discrimination in housing, lending, employment, and education and the protection of voting rights and disability rights or access, among other areas. The team will continue to foster a strong relationship with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and coordinate with other Department of Justice components and federal agencies as needed.

In addition to enforcement efforts, the Civil Rights Team will enhance the District’s multi-prong approach to advancing the protection of civil rights by focusing on public awareness and increasing the Office’s presence in the community through engagement, to encourage reporting of potential civil rights violations to the appropriate offices, agencies or components. The Team will also enhance its prevention efforts by working with state and local agencies, law enforcement, community groups, advocates, stakeholders and public and private entities to conduct proactive training to educate stakeholders on their rights and obligations under the law.

“Putting the enforcement of civil rights at the forefront of our priorities brings us a step closer to our nation’s founding ideals of equal justice and equal opportunity for everyone,” King said. “I’m looking forward to the work of our Civil Rights Team in this important area of the law and fulfilling the Justice Department’s responsibility of ensuring equal protection for all.”

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