Meet Jasmine Richards. She’s a 28-year-old resident of California and the founder of the Pasadena chapter of the Black Lives Matter movement. As you can imagine, she is not a fan of the police and the feeling is surely mutual. The Pasadena Police Dept. has a reputation for racism and brutality and now they’ve found a way to punish the leader of the local #BLM movement for daring to stand up to them.
On August 29, 2015, police responded to a 911 call after an altercation at a local park. The owner of a restaurant near the park told police an unidentified young black woman allegedly did not pay for her meal. Black Lives Matter supporters, including Richards, were already at the park after a peaceful protest earlier that day for Kendrec McDade, a 19-year-old unarmed black teenager who was killed by Pasadena police in 2012.
Video of the incident shows Black Lives Matter supporters, including Richards, run to the woman’s side as police attempt to arrest her. Richards was arrested two days later for trying to physically pull the woman away from police.
Richards was initially charged with inciting a riot, child endangerment, delaying and obstructing peace officers, and felony lynching. When the court announced the June 1 trial date, only the lynching charge remained.
Now, you may feel that interfering with the police is wrong but black people, especially black women, have a mostly ignored history of being abused/raped/murdered by the police while in their custody. In the eyes of Richards, she was quite possibly saving a life.
But the police could have settled for obstructing peace officers. Instead, they went for “lynching” to send a message to the Black Lives Matter movement: Fuck with the police and the police will fuck with you.
People involved with the Black Lives Matter movement have continually faced forms of intimidation that are eerily reminiscent of those used against civil rights activists from Martin Luther King Jr. to author James Baldwin.
Meanwhile, California law states that interfering with police, as Deputy District Attorney Christine Kee described Richards’s actions, is a misdemeanor. By charging and convicting Richards with the “lynching” felony, Gyamfi argues that the deputy district attorney and the local police department are setting a tone that tells activists and organizers that protesting is a criminal activity. If anything, Gyamfi said she thinks her client was used as an example to stop the movement locally, through intimidation.
We saw something similar during the Occupy protests back in 2011-2012. The police would arrest the people they believed were the leaders, put them on probation and then threaten them with lengthy prison sentences if they were arrested again. Just like the “lynching” charge, it was a way to discourage others from protesting.
Keep in mind, the police feel like THEY’RE being persecuted. It’s laughable but they do nonetheless. While in the eyes of Richards she was saving a life, in the eyes of the police, Richards is one of the people putting police lives in danger. It doesn’t matter that it’s not even remotely true, the police live in a bubble where they can do no wrong and the law is what THEY say it is. Anyone demanding accountability is a danger and must be silenced. And using a law designed to punish racists to punish an anti-racism protester has a sick irony to it that is surely giving the Thin Blue Line a hearty chuckle.
Under the California penal code, Richards faces 2-4 years in prison. And this is why Black Lives Matter exists in the first place.
Featured image via screencap.