DENVER — Colorado hit an all-time high for reported hate crimes in 2021, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's annual hate crime report, which tallies and analyzes reported incidents across the nation from the previous year.
A total of 285 incidents were reported in Colorado in 2021, up from 281 in 2020. The number of reported incidents has increased every year for five consecutive years.
According to the report, 59% of the reported incidents were based on race, ethnicity, or ancestry, 26% were based on sexual orientation or gender identity and 12% were based on religion.
“After five years of increased hate crime reports, and in the aftermath of the Club Q shooting, we all must decide what we are willing to do to confront and prevent hate in our state,” said Scott Levin, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League Mountain States Region. “Each and every one of us must speak out and push back against this insidious trend.”
Even as reported hate crime numbers, they likely only represent a fraction of all incidents. A survey earlier this year from Hate Free Colorado found that only 18% of hate crime victims reported the incident to law enforcement.
Denver7 spoke with Manpreet Singh, a victim of a hate crime in Denver who now serves as a resource and advocate for other victims. Singh was assaulted in downtown Denver in 2010.
“A person comes from behind me, puts his hands on me, starts saying, ‘Get out of the country. You’re a terrorist,’” Singh recalled. “He rips off my turban — there was a chunk of hair he ripped off — and he tried to go for my beard, so I blocked it. But, he had me in a headlock immediately.”
Singh said two women witnessed the assault from across the street, which happened at the intersection of 15th Street and Blake Street in Denver. He was able to push his attacker off, run across the street and call police. His attacker was never found.
Singh said it is still difficult for him to recall the incident and speak about it, but he has found value in sharing his story with others and becoming and advocate for other victims, particularly others in the Sikh community. He said his friends in the community have experienced more hate in recent years, ranging from nasty comments on the street to vandalism of property to physical attacks.
Dilpreet Jammu, executive director of the Colorado Sikhs organization, said that data confirms an increase in hate crimes against the Sikh community, and believes capturing the data is an important step in addressing the issue.
“It is a sad fact that 2021 saw an increase in violence based on immigration, race, religion, color, gender, and gender identity,” Jammu said. “Colorado is better than this, and we can do more to improve the quality of life for our citizens.”
Even though his attacker was not found by police, Singh wants others to maintain their faith in our justice system and our common humanity.
“If the guy is found that attacked me, even today, I want to have a conversation — sit down at the table and find some similarity,” Singh said. “Let him know, ‘Hey man, you bleed, I bleed. You smile, I smile. I’m a family man.”