Black Lives Matter Leader Convicted of Lynching, But Not How You Think

(ANTIMEDIA) Pasadena, CA — Black Lives Matter leader Jasmine Abdullah, better known as Jasmine Richards, was convicted of felony lynching on Wednesday after a jury deliberated for just two hours. Anti-Media was in the courtroom covering the trial, in which Richards became the first black person in the U.S. to be convicted of lynching.

Jasmine Richards’ Message to the Youth:

When we think of lynching, images of the KKK hanging a black person from a tree come to mind. Somehow this image was twisted around, and the charge of lynching was used against a black woman suspected of trying to ‘unarrest’ another black woman she felt was being unlawfully taken by police.

In September 2015, a black woman, Benita Gina Escoe, went to a Mexican restaurant and ordered an horchata. She was twenty cents short so she asked to pay by debit. The owner of the restaurant claimed Escoe punched her in the face. The owner called her daughter, who was nearby. The daughter also claimed Escoe assaulted, punched, and kicked her several times. The injuries shown in photos of both women showed scrapes, not bruises, which would be consistent with injuries caused by punching and kicking. There was also a photo showing an injury on Escoe’s head. A police officer who testified failed to mention Escoe had accused the restaurant owner of stealing her phone. This was revealed only under cross-examination by Richards’ defense attorney, Nana Gyamfi.

Black Lives Matter is not just an anti-police brutality movement. Black Lives Matter is concerned with protecting all black lives, and they also work to prevent gang violence. Jasmine Richards has actively worked with children in her community, mentoring them and encouraging unity. On the day of the incident, Jasmine was leading a peace walk when her group of 15 to 20 people, including five to eight children, passed by the restaurant where Escoe had her altercation. Escoe left with the group and they all went to a nearby park. Police claim they had Escoe in their custody at the restaurant, though she was not in handcuffs when Richards took Escoe to the park. Richards was under the impression that Escoe was a crime victim and that the restaurant owner had stolen Escoe’s phone. Jasmine Richards was ultimately convicted of felony lynching because she stood between the police and Escoe. Another person, whom a testifying officer alluded to — but who was not arrested or otherwise identified in court — pulled on Escoe in an attempt to prevent her from being arrested. Escoe eventually plead no contest to her charges.

Merriam-Webster defines lynching as “kill[ing] illegally as punishment for a crime.”  However, the legal definition for lynching in California doesn’t concern killing, but, “the taking by means of a riot of any person from the lawful custody of any peace officer.” According to California law, a riot occurs when two or more people use force or violence, disturb the peace, or threaten to use force or violence with immediate power to execute that threat.

Democracy Now explains further:

Historically, the crime of lynching refers to when a white lynch mob takes a black person out of the custody of the police for the purpose of extrajudicially hanging them. In fact, the law’s name was so controversial that less than two months before Jasmine was arrested, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law legislation removing the word ‘lynching’ from the penal code.

Earlier in 2015, Pasadena police arrested Richards on charges of terrorism when she tried to expose the truth about the Pasadena police murder of Kendrec McDade, further highlighting the ways laws are manipulated to execute political objectives.

In an interview with KPFK radio in June of last year, Richards said:

When I was out here causing trouble [before joining Black Lives Matter], getting into everything, I never got in trouble by the law. Once I picked up a bullhorn, I became a target and that just showed me how powerful the woman and black woman’s voice is. Because they’re trying to stifle me. They’re trying to keep me down. It’s just bullying. They’re [the police] bullies.

On the second day of police testimony this week, Black Lives Matter defense attorney, Nana Gyamfi, posted the following on her Facebook page, further criticizing police:

Today was filled with Pasadena cops contradicting themselves and each other, and a video of BLM Pasadena standing up for Black lives. Jasmine’s words and energy during that action were truly Black resilience! We gon’ be alright!”

In spite of her optimism, Gyamfi says she has been receiving threats by telephone. As she posted on her Facebook page last week:

I received another one of those calls designed to scare, intimidate, and shame. Message left last week, but just got today because my messages have been re-routed without my knowledge or consent since the end of April. Seems that coward with the disguised voice is still upset with me for representing BLM, and Jasmine Abdullah in particular.”

After the guilty verdict was announced Wednesday, Gyamfi said:

This was a political prosecution, not a criminal prosecution. This was a jury that could not tell the difference between a loud Black person and a violent Black person. This jury has nothing to be proud of.

Gyamfi explained to Democracy Now why she believes Richards was found guilty, noting that out of 55 potential jurors, only two were black — a far smaller ratio than in the general population of either Pasadena or Los Angeles:

[I]t was very clear that it was not a jury anywhere near of Jasmine’s peers, let alone the peers of the people who had come to support. And again, going back to those images [of lynching] once again, it is the jury without black people that then decides that the lynching of Jasmine Abdullah is appropriate. And it can’t be said enough times that this is a perfect example of what the criminal sanction system does to black people who dare to speak up, who dare to win, who dare to challenge the system and state-sanctioned violence.

Gyamfi also posted the following on Facebook after the conviction:

Very sad to report that Jasmine Abdullah was convicted this morning of attempted felony lynching. Jurors cried as their verdict was read. The Court should have let her leave with us, but instead, she remanded her into custody…The fight continues!

In another Facebook post, she also said:

It’s important to uplift that as Jasmine Richards was being lead to lock-up, after the judge remanded her to custody, she turned to us and said in a strong voice in open court, ‘We have a duty to fight for freedom!’ 30 voices, including my own, responded, ‘We have a duty to fight for freedom.’ She continued, ‘We have a duty to win’. We replied, ‘We have a duty to win.’ ‘ We must love and protect one another.’ ‘We must love and protect one another.’ And as she disappeared behind the wall, ‘We have nothing to lose but our CHAIIIIINS!’ ‘We have nothing to lose but our CHAINS!!!’ ‘I love you!’ ‘We LOVE you, Jasmine!,’ we responded. And the silenced shamed courtroom staff and ‘officers of the court’, including the formerly smug prosecutor DDA Christine Kee, were forced to be witness AGAIN to what Black Resilience is. Only you, Jasmine Abdullah. You and your fierce-ass Ancestors. We’re still fighting! We’re still winning!

There is a petition asking the city of Pasadena to stop the political persecution of Jasmine Abdullah. People are being asked to contribute to Jasmine’s legal fundraiser.

Sentencing for Jasmine will be held on Tuesday, June 7 at 8:30 AM at the Pasadena courthouse.

This is a movement, not a moment” – Jasmine Richards of Black Lives Matter

Nana Gyamfi and Melina Abdullah spoke with Democracy now

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