LOS ANGELES — Legislation that removes the word “lynching” from a state law used to describe a person interfering with law enforcement personnel has been signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown.
Senate Bill 629, introduced by state Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Culver City, will take effect Jan. 1, 2016.
“I applaud Governor Brown and the state Legislature for passing this bill because lynching implies racially motivated mob violence against African Americans,” said Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, a nonpartisan public policy forum.“It has nothing to do with police making arrests. There needs to be a clear distinction,” Hutchinson said.
In California law, “lynching” is currently defined as the “taking by means of a riot of any person from the lawful custody of a peace officer.”
The bill was introduced after charges were filed against 20-year-old activist Maile Hampton for “lynching” after she attempted to pull a fellow protester away from police in Sacramento during a January rally against police brutality. The charge of lynching sparked outcry in the African American community, where lynchings are considered a violent method of inciting fear and maintaining white social dominance during the post-slavery period.
“This bill has enormous symbolic importance in the current national debate about law enforcement in African American communities,” said Charles Stewart, senior deputy and communications director for Mitchell. “To accuse an activist with the Black Lives Matter movement of ‘lynching’ because she attempted to protect an African American from potential police brutality is perverse. The word had to be rectified.”
It is estimated that 3,500 African Americans were lynched in the United States between 1882 and 1968.
The bill will eradicate any reference of the term “lynching” from California law, while retaining penalties linked to individuals interfering with the operations of law enforcement, Stewart said.