The leader of a Black Lives Matter chapter in Pasadena, California, was convicted this week on a felony charge that was known as “lynching” until recently, for her alleged role in a confrontation with police last year. Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation changing the law’s name after a different black activist was charged with lynching last year.
Today, California Penal Code § 405a uses the title “Attempting to Unlawfully Remove a Suspect from Police Officers” to describe the crime of “taking by means of a riot of any person from the lawful custody of any peace officer.” The 2015 arrest of Sacramento Black Lives Matter activist Maile Mae Hampton under that charge, which activists saw as an attempt to chill protests against the police, prompted lawmakers to change the name from “lynching,” as the crime had previously been known.
Jasmine Richards was convicted under the newly renamed law on Wednesday, Pasadena Now reports. In August 2015, Richards was among a group of protesters who allegedly interfered with the arrest of a woman who was accused of failing to pay for a meal she ordered at a restaurant.
Bystander video of the arrest, published by Pasadena Now, shows a chaotic scene. Witnesses can be heard shouting at police that they are treating the woman too roughly, and alleging that she had also been roughed up by an employee of the restaurant.
None of the protesters were arrested on the scene. Three days later, police arrested Richards on several charges relating to the incident, all of which were dropped except for the “Attempting to Unlawfully Remove a Suspect from Police Officers” charge.
Civil rights activists have contended that the law—aside from its bizarre former name—is used to punish people for participating in protests that target the police, and Richards’ attorney made a similar contention. “This was a political prosecution, not a criminal prosecution,” attorney Nana Gyamfi told Pasadena Now. “This was a jury that could not tell the difference between a loud Black person and a violent Black person.”
Richards will be sentenced June 7. She faces a maximum term of four years in prison.