A Pasadena, California court convicted Jasmine Richards, a 28-year-old black woman and founder of the city’s #BlackLivesMatter, of felony lynching, an unprecedented and deeply unsettling judgement. The California penal code, “felony lynching”— meant to protect black protestors from angry white mobs in the past — was used to convict Richards after her attempt to pull a woman away from officers who were trying to arrest her.
It all started in 2014 when police responded to a 911 call after an altercation at a park where a restaurant owner claimed an unidentified black woman did not pay for her meal. When police officers attempted to arrested the unknown woman, Jasmine Richards and a group of protestors who were already in the vicinity peacefully protesting the death of Kendrec McDade, an unarmed teenager who was killed by police back in 2012, ran to the woman’s side and attempted to physically pull her away from police. Two days later, she was arrested and charged with multiple crimes, but only the lynching claim stuck.
Now this is not a question of whether Jasmine Richard’s actions were justified, as she attempted to pull another woman away from police custody, though Black Lives Matter did issue a statement in response to this entire debacle. Here is an excerpt:
“California’s lynching law was put on the books in 1933, to prevent mobs from forcibly taking people from police custody for vigilante justice. The perverse nature of this case is stark both because of the law’s tragic name but more importantly because police, who have long exercised poor and deadly judgment in cases impacting Black communities, cannot be trusted to make lawful arrests or to guarantee arrestees will make it home alive. Given that, removing a Black person from police custody can be a life-saving action.”
The bigger issue is that the laws meant to protect black people are being used to prosecute black activists and that is just an absolute damn shame. And this is not the first time, either. In Sacramento in April 2015, Maile Hampton, a 20-year-old black woman was also arrested for lynching during a rally against police brutality, Tiffany Tran and Alex Brown— both Occupy Oakland activists, and Los Angeles-based activist, Sergio Ballesteros were all also charged with lynching, though those charges were later dropped.
In the case of Jasmine Richards, sentencing is set to happen on June 7th. We should all be paying very close attention to the outcome of this case. It will decide not only Richard’s future, but also that of other activists who may find themselves in a similar predicament in the future.
Photo Credits: Colorlines/PasadenaNow.Com