Protestors march against Asian hate crimes near the Los Angeles federal building on March 27, 2021. Photo by Damian Dovarganes, AP Photo

(CALMATTERS) – Californians have reported more than 500 hate incidents to a new state hotline in its first six months of operation, the state Department of Civil Rights said Monday. The hotline, CA vs Hate, was set up to provide a non-law-enforcement response to bias events that includes offering legal services and counseling to survivors.

State officials hope the hotline will also help them better understand where and how such incidents take place after hate crimes in the state rose by 20% in 2022, reaching their highest level since 2001. Nationwide, Jewish and Muslim civil rights groups are reporting spikes in harassment of their communities amid the ongoing war in Gaza.

“Whether it’s because of conflict abroad or here at home, it takes real strength to stand in solidarity in the face of bias and discrimination.” 

Mary Wheat, Civil Rights Department acting director, in a statement

Calls to the hotline came in from more than three quarters of California’s counties, officials said, and more than 60% of callers accepted the services offered to them. Race and ethnicity were the most common reported motivations for bias incidents, at 27% and 18%, respectively, followed by religion (13%) and sexual orientation (11%).

Monday marked the beginning of United Against Hate Week, in which local communities around the state will host anti-discrimination events, including exhibits, bystander trainings and rallies.