BLM Activist Convicted on Former “Lynching” Law
A California Black Lives Matter activist was convicted Thursday of interfering with police officers as they attempted to take a suspect into custody during a protest demonstration.
Jasmine Richards was arrested by Pasadena police officers last year when a woman who had allegedly left a restaurant without paying joined her and a group who had gathered in a nearby park, according to the Los Angeles Times. Prosecutors say Richards tried to start a riot when police tried to arrest the woman. Richards was taken into custody by police several days later.
But Black Lives Matter organizers say Sullivan was essentially convicted on a “lynching” charge according to California law. A statement on the group’s website cites California Penal Code from 1933 which read: “The taking by means of a riot of any person from the lawful custody of any peace officer is a lynching.”
The language of the code was changed in 2015 after Maile Hampton, an activist who was protesting police brutality near California’s state capitol in Sacramento, was convicted on the lynching charge. Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill last year that removed the word “lynching” from the law and defines a person found guilty of the action as a felon. However, the penalty, up to four years in prison, remains the same and Richards is facing that amount of time in jail at her sentencing hearing on Tuesday.
Black Lives Matters says although the language of the law has been changed, the substance of it remains the same. Richards attorney Nana Gyamfi said that the evidence presented at trial did not support the charge against her. “Attempted lynching requires a person to attempt to unlawfully take a person from the lawful custody of a peace officer,” she said in the statement. “The historical use is to charge a crime of lynching when the lynch mob takes the Black person out of the custody of the police for the purpose of lynching the Black person.”
Black Lives Matter is calling for the conviction to be overturned and any other pending charges dropped.
“Obviously, the police, District Attorney, and entire system are trying to make an example out of Jasmine, using this outrageous conviction to intimidate other organizers from fighting for an end to police terror and other forms of state violence against Black people,” said Melina Abdullah, a BLM’s Los Angeles chapter organizer in the statement. “It won’t work.”