Protesters in Berkeley last April.

Before the events last week in Charlottesville brought national focus to skirmishes between white supremacists groups and counter-protesters, East Bay State Sen. Nancy Skinner‘s district, which prominently includes Berkeley, was the epicenter of bloody clashes and debate over free speech.

On the day the State Legislature returned to session Monday, Skinner introduced legislation that would change California’s anti-hate laws to include that crimes committed by white supremacists be prosecuted as terrorism.

“Racist terrorism as expressed by these white nationalist groups is not welcome in California,” said Skinner. “Taking these actions, California will ensure that racist and hateful groups can be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

State Sen. Nancy Skinner

Skinner also offered two resolutions that urge federal, state and local law enforcement to prosecute white supremacists who commit violent crimes, in addition, to destructive acts such as property damage, by using existing terrorism and anti-hate statutes.

“The horrific events in Charlottesville and elsewhere prove that violent white nationalism and neo-Nazism remain very real threats,” Skinner added, “These groups’ intent is to terrorize our communities, so it makes sense to prosecute them as terrorists.”

Earlier this year, white supremacists groups, also termed “white nationalists” and the “alt-right,” battled with anti-fascists groups in Berkeley which resulted in numerous injuries and destruction in downtown Berkeley.

The bill, SB 630, would close a loophole in existing anti-hate laws to protect individuals who are acting in support or defense of a protective class. In the case of Heather Heyer, a Caucasian woman was killed last week in Charlottesville while protesting a white supremacists rally, the individual who committed the act benefits from a “legal technicality” that avoid being charged with terrorism, said Skinner.

Heather Heyer’s killer could not be charged with a hate crime because Heather herself does not fall within the law’s definition of a protected class,” said Skinner. “SB 630 addresses this ambiguity to ensure that those who commit a hate act, regardless of the status of the victim, can be prosecuted fully and appropriately.”