Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Monday said that while the investigation into the Boston Marathon bombing remains ongoing and that the Justice Department will hold accountable those responsible, his office is "firmly committed" to protecting innocent people "against misguided acts of retaliation."
Mr. Holder, during a speech at the Anti-Defamation League Centennial Summit in Washington, said the Justice Department will "pursue relentlessly anyone" who targets innocent ethnic groups after the April 15 bomb attack that killed three and injured more than 260.
"Our investigation into this matter remains ongoing — and I want to assure you that my colleagues and I are determined to hold accountable, to the fullest extent of the law, all of those who were responsible for this attack," he said. "But I also want to make clear that the Justice Department is firmly committed to protecting innocent people against misguided acts of retaliation."
Mr. Holder noted that in the dozen years since the Sept. 11 attacks, the Justice Department has investigated more than 800 incidents involving threats, assaults and acts of vandalism and violence targeting Muslims, Arabs, Sikhs, South Asians and others perceived to be members of those groups.
"Only by forging close bonds between these groups can we ensure the safety — and the civil rights — of everyone in this country who may be targeted simply because of who they are, how they look, or what they believe," he said. "Only by taking action to address discrimination and preserve religious liberty can we extend these rights to every individual or community of faith whose freedoms — or lives — are threatened.
"As Americans, we must not allow any group to be stigmatized or alienated. We must not tolerate acts of hatred. And we must reaffirm every day — through our actions as well as our approach — that justice and public safety are not in tension. They rely upon one another."
Mr. Holder did not mention either of the Boston bombing suspects — Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, who has been charged with using a weapon of mass destruction, and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, who was killed in a shootout with police. Both men are Muslims with roots in Chechnya.
The attorney general praised the ADL for its hard work but said there was much more to do. He said that despite the organization's "extraordinary impact on American society, on our legal system and on the world," significant challenges and persistent threats lie ahead. He said ensuring equality, opportunity and justice for all — regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity or walk of life — still "stretches beyond the horizon."
Mr. Holder also noted that the Justice Department has taken steps to safeguard the voting rights of every eligible citizen, to confront employment discrimination, and to stop bullying in schools — and that the Obama administration was determined to pass measures against gun violence.
"And we are fighting every day — alongside groups like this one and our colleagues across the administration — to achieve meaningful immigration reform, so 11 million people who are here in an undocumented status can step out of the shadows; free themselves from abusive employment practices; and avail themselves of the basic legal, civil and human rights that every one of them needs and deserves," he said.
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