Should the disabled be protected by Mississippi's hate crime law - WDAM - TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports

Should the disabled be protected by Mississippi's hate crime law?

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Austin Stokes and Le Ann Rasmussen with the group "Mississippi Citizens for Austin's Law" are advocating that state lawmakers amend Mississippi's hate crime law to include those with disabilities as a protected group. Austin Stokes and Le Ann Rasmussen with the group "Mississippi Citizens for Austin's Law" are advocating that state lawmakers amend Mississippi's hate crime law to include those with disabilities as a protected group.
BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -

There's a push in Mississippi to amend our state's hate crime law to include those with disabilities as a protected group.

Le Ann Rasmussen with the group "Mississippi Citizens for Austin's Law" said Mississippi is one of 20 states with a hate crime law that does not include protection for people with disabilities.

"I think the legislature should send a message saying if you attack someone with a disability, your sentenced will be enhanced," Rasmussen told WLOX News's David Elliot on Monday's Four O'Clock Show.

"Austin's Law" is, of course, named after Austin Stokes: the disabled George County teen who was punched in the face by another student in October 2012. The act of violence was legally considered just simple assault. But the attack sparked outrage from many in the community who said at the time more should be done to punish those who attack our most vulnerable citizens.

The coalition is currently working to raise awareness about their cause, and looking for legislative support.

"We're circulating petitions all over the state. We have a Facebook page. We are planning several events to help spread the word and raise awareness," Rasmussen said. "We're also looking for a legislative sponsor. We need someone to propose the bill on our behalf."

Austin Stokes joined Rasmussen in the WLOX News Studio to talk about the proposal. He's doing well, but said because of the incident in George County, he is now attending school at East Central.

To learn more about Mississippi Citizens for Austin's Law, visit their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MississippiCitizensForAustinsLaw

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