A Black Lives Matter activist in Pasadena, California faces jail time after she was convicted of interfering with a police arrest back in August 2015.
According to Democracy now, 29-year-old Jasmine Richards was charged with a rarely used statue in California known as ‘felony lynching’. The law was originally created to prevent angry white mobs from removing Black defendants from police custody and taking justice into their own hands in the form of a public lynching.
The bizarre conviction stems from an incident on August 29, in which police accuse Richards of trying to de-arrest someone during a peace march at La Pintoresca Park, the news site states. She was arrested and charged for the crime a month later.
Richard’s lawyer, Nana Gyamfi, gave the Los Angeles Times an account of what happened that day. Gyamfi said police arrived on the scene after a woman attempted to dine and dash at a nearby restaurant. The woman then joined a group of demonstrators who had gathered at the park following the peace march. Richards was in attendance.
As authorities tried to take the woman into custody, however, prosecutors say Richards attempted to start a riot. Police reviewed footage of the incident and arrested the Black Lives Matter activist many days later.
According to the Los Angeles Times, a jury reached their verdict Wednesday and Richard will be sentenced next week in Pasadena. Gymafi expressed her disappointment with the jury’s decision and asserted that her client was “peacefully showing her opposition to police activity” the publication states.
“What I tried to get the jury to do is not equate blackness with violence. Just because you see black bodies and the black bodies are angry or disappointed or angry or cussing, that is not a crime,” she said. “Unfortunately, I was not able to do that.”
The publication reports that in the past, Richards has spoken out against police brutality, including the 2012 killing of Kendrec Mcdade. The 19-year-old was shot and killed while fleeing two Pasadena police officers.
Wednesday’s verdict didn’t sit well with fellow Black Lives Matter organizer Melina Abdullah either.
“Her conviction is not only about punishing Jasmine Richards, but also is the lynching,” Abdullah explained in an interview with Democracy Now. “So it’s really disgusting and ironic that she’s charged and convicted with felony lynching, when the real lynching that’s carried out is done in the same way it was carried out in the late 19th, early 20th century, where it’s supposed to punish those who dare to rise up against a system.”
Disgusting and ironic indeed. Democracy Now reports that less than two months before Richards was taken into custody, the controversial California law was set to undergo a name change. Gov. Jerry Brown signed a piece of legislation that would remove the word ‘lynching’ from the penal code altogether.
Amid the public outcry over a Black female arrested and charged with “lynching,” supporters have started an online petition to keep Richards from going to prison. “#FreeJasmine: No Jail Time for Black Lives Matter Organizer Wrongfully Convicted of Lynching,” the ColorofChange.org petition reads. The page even displays the letter supporters intend to mail to Judge Elain Lu, who will preside over the case.
Richards is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday, June 7.