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Civil Rights forum set for today


U.S. Attorney Bill Ihlenfeld and his staff will host a free Federal Civil Rights Forum from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. today at the Monongalia County Center at Mylan Park.

The event is open to the public and also serves as continuing education for practicing attorneys.

“The longer I’ve served as a U. S. Attorney the more I’ve realized a lot of us don’t fully understand the rights we possess and how they can be enforced through civil actions and criminal actions,” Ihlenfeld said.

“We will be covering a variety of topics, including hate crimes, fair housing rights, disability rights and more. It’s only a half-day, we didn’t want to take an entire day.”

According to Ihlenfeld, many of these types of crimes go unreported because people don’t understand what rights they have.

“We really depend upon the public to bring these things to our attention,” Ihlenfeld said. “Some of these are criminal and so we obviously want these things to be brought to the attention of law enforcement as well.”

Ihlenfeld insisted on a free, open forum to encourage as many attendees as possible because it’s important for all people to know when their rights have been violated.

“The idea here is to let people know what their rights are and what to do about it if they think their rights have been violated,” Ihlenfeld said. “Whether that’s related to the Americans with Disabilities Act, or the Fair Housing Act or maybe they think they’re a victim of a hate crime.”

Ihlenfeld said the event is also a way for members of the public to get to know his staff — the people working daily to protect their safety and civil rights.

“At the end of the day, some of this isn’t very complicated or difficult to enforce your rights. You just need to know who to call or where to file a complaint,” he said.