UPDATE: Black Lives Matter activist Jasmine Richards has been released from jail on bail.
Last week, Black Lives Matter Pasadena chapter founder Jasmine Richards was sentenced to 3 months for trying to save someone from the potential dangers of law enforcement. Through this act, the justice system has shown once again how it targets communities of color via criminalization and incarceration.
On August 29, 2015 Jasmine attempted to pull a woman from the hands of aggressive police officers at a park that she’d hosted a peaceful protest at hours before; two days later Jasmine was arrested.
Initially, Jasmine was charged with inciting a riot, child endangerment, delaying and obstructing peace officers, and felony lynching; she was ultimately acquitted of all charges except felony lynching. She was found guilty and sentenced to 90 days in jail and 3 years of probation upon her release.
There have been a few Black people arrested or charged with lynching in the past, but Jasmine is the first to be convicted. It is ironic and appalling that a law made to protect Black people from the horrors of angry white mobs decades ago is now being used against a Black woman fighting for the rights of so many people.
According to California penal code, lynching is, “the taking by means of a riot of another person from the lawful custody of a peace officer.” Despite the fact that there was video footage of the entire incident proving that there was no riot and the officers were not being peaceful, Jasmine was still convicted. It is clear that Jasmine is being used as an example.
She is a political prisoner whose conviction is being used to inflict fear in other activists. This conviction represents a clear attempt to silence an activist, and a way to intimidate others who have similar goals.
The Center for Media Justice, Black Lives Matter, and Strong Families have partnered to make sure that Jasmine knows we are with her, while we fight for her liberation. Send a message of love and solidarity to Jasmine today.
Many have juxtaposed Jasmine’s sentence with that of Brock Turner, the Stanford student convicted of sexual assault who was sentenced to 6 months in jail. These two cases highlight a longstanding discrepancy between the sentencing of white people and Black people in this country.
According to the 2014 ACLU report, Racial Disparities in Sentencing, “Sentences imposed on Black males in the federal system are nearly 20 percent longer than those imposed on white males convicted of similar crimes.” Of course, those disparities are not limited to sentencing; people of color are targeted for stops and searches by police, face higher arrest rates, and are charged with more serious crimes than their white counterparts.
The judge in Brock Turner’s case expressed his reasoning for the decision as follows: "A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him...I think he will not be a danger to others."
But that reasoning can be used for the majority of people currently incarcerated in this country. The difference between the many people, like Jasmine, who are not awarded the same leniency as Turner is that they lack the same privilege that Turner has. The “severe impact” that prison will have on an individual should be considered in all cases and not just for people of privilege.
Thanks to the grassroots mobilization efforts of Black Lives Matter, 18 Million Rising, Democracy for America, Color of Change, and many more, Jasmine received a sentence far less than the maximum four years she could have faced in prison.
Add your voice to these efforts and show your support for Jasmine Richards today by signing Color of Change’s petition, calling upon Governor Jerry Brown to pardon Jasmine.