Activists are calling for the release of Black Lives Matter Pasadena organizer Jasmine “Abdullah” Richards, who was charged with lynching on Thursday, and for supporters to pack the courtroom during her sentencing on Tuesday.
A petition on Color of Change has already gathered nearly 40,000 signatures. Black Lives Matter organizers have also released a statement urging protests at the court and for supporters to send letters to the judge. Meanwhile, the hashtag #FreeJasmine is beginning to make the rounds on Twitter and solidarity actions are being hosted as far away as New York.
“Like other cities, a divestment of resources from the Black community by state and local officials has led to poverty and gang violence,” read the press release from Pasadena's chapter of Black Lives Matter. “Jasmine’s deep community connections along with her tremendous ability as an organizer make her a threat to the existing system and make her a prime target.”
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Richards was, according to video footage, blocking a fellow activist from what she saw as unlawful arrest. The "lynching" charge is meant to be used against lynch mobs that take people from police custody to deliver their own form of justice. It requires a mob to be present, but the protest organized by the activists has been described in the petition as a peaceful gathering of “15-20 children, mothers, and community members.”
Richards is the first Black Lives Matter activist to receive the charge — others have been arrested for a variety of reasons — and she is reportedly the first Black person to be charged with lynching.
She could face up to four years of prison, a sentence seen by supporters as a deliberate curb on her political activity.
“Since I was a child, these police have scared me,” Richards said in an earlier video for her BLM chapter. “They’ve harassed me, they’ve scared me. I know their first and last names. I felt like we needed a group out here that stood up to that injustice.”