Hate-crime convict ordered to read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book

Hate-crime convict ordered to read Ta-Nehisi Coates' book

This judge really threw the book at him.

An Oregon man convicted of a hate crime has been ordered to write a letter of apology — and read anti-racist polemicist Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Jarl Rockhill, 35, admitted putting a sticker of a man making a Nazi salute above the word “pure” on a fence outside a Portland group that helps refugees and immigrants in April, The Oregonian said.

After being convicted of committing a second-degree bias crime, he was sentenced to 50 hours of community service, and ordered to write a letter of apology to the nonprofit he targeted.

Judge Christopher Ramras also ordered him to write a report on “Between the World and Me,” Coates’ controversial book in the form of a letter to his son about the pain of growing up as a black man in the US.

Rockhill also has to write another essay on the 2018 documentary “Myanmar’s Killing Fields” about the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims, the outlet said.

Ramras warned he’d impose as much as 150 hours of additional community service if the reports were not sincere.

Surveillance footage captured Rockhill affixing a racist sticker to a fence at the Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization in Portland.
Surveillance footage captured Rockhill affixing a racist sticker to a fence at the Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization in Portland.
Multnomah County District Attorney

“When people are ordered to do things, sometimes they do it just because they’re ordered to,” Ramras reportedly said.

“Its effectiveness is going to depend on whether you really take it to heart.”

The bookish sentencing came as part of a plea deal reached by Rockhill, who was found with a “cache” of rifles and neo-Nazi literature when his home in suburban Portland was raided, the report said.

Cops will keep the confiscated guns during the two years he is under probation, the paper said.

Rockhill did not apologize in court and declined to comment to The Oregonian. His attorney, Ross Denison, told the paper that his client was “taking responsibility for his actions.”

weapons, nazi memorabilia
A trove of weapons and nazi memorabilia was found at the home of Rockhill.
Portland Police Bureau

The refugee group he targeted sent a message to Rockhill after sentencing, condemning the way he “went out of your way to bring pain to our community.”

The group’s members “know you may never change, but they do hope you take this as a lesson: hate is not welcome here.”

The judge — who previously ran for Oregon Secretary of State as a nonpartisan candidate — has issued similar sentences before.

In 2019, he ordered a homeless man who yelled at a Ukrainian immigrant he also spat at to write a 500-word essay about the challenges of moving to the US from another country, The Washington Post said at the time.

Ta-Nehisi Coates
Rockhill was ordered to read a book by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Ta-Nehisi Coates' book Between the World and Me"
Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book Between the World and Me” centers around the pain of growing up as a black man in the US.


Ta-Nehisi Coates
Ta-Nehisi Coates’ speaks onstage during an event in New York City on February 29, 2020.


Such sentencing fits a general push for so-called “restorative justice” rather than traditional punishment favored by Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt, the DC paper noted.

Miri Cypers, the regional director of the local branch of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) — which helped in Rockhill’s investigation — called his sentencing “an interesting approach.”

“As an organization, we do value restorative justice and the importance of working with people,” Cypers told the DC paper, noting that some extremists “can be rehabilitated after understanding the impact of their actions.”

“On the other hand, I hope that the judge did consult with the community that was impacted to ensure that they felt safe,” she said.

Sociology professor and extremism researcher Randall Blazak told the outlet that” sometimes it’s kind of backwards to send a lower-level bias-crime offender into prison, where they will get indoctrinated and become serious hate mongers.”

The sticker was place outside of an immigrant and refugee organization in Portland.
The sticker was placed outside of an immigrant and refugee organization in Portland.

“Hate groups are waiting for these folks [in prison] with open arms,” Blazak said.

“I think throwing them in prison just amplifies their hate. I think restorative justice offers a better path.”

Evan Williams, who produced the Myanmar documentary that Rockhill has to study, told the paper it was “the first time I’ve heard of it being used this way.”

“I think from a filmmaker’s point of view, it’s fantastic,” Williams said of the sentencing.

“If the film changed that one individual’s point of view, that would be worth all the effort,” he said.

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