Established in 1994, the Whatcom Human Rights Task Force (WHRTF) is a group of community organisations, religious people, and other citizens in Whatcom County, Washington State, United States who work to promote and protect the rights of all people. The organisation was launched to help monitor, respond to, and prevent acts of harassment against targeted groups or individuals. The WHRTF focusses on community education in an effort to create more tolerance for cultural diversity. Its motto is "Joining Hands against Hate".
Communication Strategies: 

WHRTF seeks to involve the local community in efforts to prevent harassment and discrimination. The Task Force is particularly focussed on securing the right to be treated with dignity and to live without fear of violence, intimidation, or discrimination due to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or political stance. Community members who contribute financially to the organisation may elect board members and receive the newsletter, announcements for general meetings, and information about Task Force events. Citizens may also volunteer to help the organisation plan and carry out various activities, which include:

  • Educating the community in an effort to cultivate tolerance, honour diversity, and identify commonalities (through, for example, a series of conversations on diversity and several presentations by the programme director for the Montana Human Rights Network).
  • Organising a unified, non-violent action response to those who condone human rights abuses
  • Providing support and referral for victims of bias crimes and other interested parties
  • Monitoring harassment, and community and governmental responses to harassment
  • Supporting the passage of human rights legislation.

One key strategy used to inform people about their rights and to motivate action is the WHRTF website. This site includes a newsletter, calendar of community events, details about local training workshops, and links and resources. The latter includes information specific to members of the community who have experienced rights violations; a civil rights hotline staffed by WHRTF personnel offers referrals.

Local businesses are encouraged to support the Task Force's efforts by displaying the Joining Hands logo as a symbol of respect and welcome to all people. The names of these organisations are posted on the website.

Task Force personnel also support the efforts of the Whatcom Civil Rights Project (WCRP), which offers training courses for university students as part of an effort to provide pro bono (free) legal assistance and advocacy to victims of discrimination. WHRTF works with LAW Advocates and the Law and Diversity Program (LDP) of Fairhaven College at Western Washington University, in conjunction with a network of local attorneys in Whatcom County, to equip students with interviewing and writing skills. Trained LDP students work with volunteers from the WHRTF to conduct intake interviews. They then prepare a memo for the Attorney Case Assessment Panel that contains a summary of relevant facts and identifies possible legal claims. As the project develops, LDP students continue working with the attorney on a particular case through the entire litigation process. As part of this process, WHRTF volunteers also serve as advocates for the victims of alleged civil rights violations and provide the victims with non-legal resources.

Development Issues: 

Rights, Education.

Key Points: 

WHRTF was established following incidents of racial intimidation against migrant farm workers in Whatcom County.


Description of WCRP on the Western Washington University site; and WHRTF site; and printed material and interview with Julie Helling, J.D., Director, Law and Diversity Program, Fairhaven College at Western Washington University.