#FreeJasmine: Ella Baker Center Statement on Jasmine Richards

On June 1st, Black Lives Matter Pasadena organizer Jasmine Richards was convicted of “felony lynching.” Jasmine was accused of trying to prevent the police from arresting a person last September, which falls under the description of “lynching” under an antiquated California law. The Ella Baker Center condemns this conviction and calls for Jasmine’s immediate release.  

It is outrageous that a racial justice advocate could be convicted of a crime that historically has represented white supremacist violence against black people—the very same violence that continues to be perpetuated against poor communities of color today through mass incarceration, criminalization, and police brutality. Jasmine has spent her life organizing against these forms of racialized state violence.

Jasmine is the only African American to be convicted of lynching in American history. Lynching laws were put in place to prevent racist, vigilante violence from occurring. Under these laws, a person is considered guilty of lynching if they successfully remove a person from police custody with the intention of carrying out violence against the person they removed. Although Jasmine did not succeed in removing the person from custody and her intention was to protect, not harm, the person who was being arrested, she was still found guilty of the charge. It is apparent that Jasmine’s arrest and conviction are politically motivated, and we must uplift our voices in supporting her and all other political prisoners.

The Pasadena police officers who shot and killed an unarmed Kendrec McDade in 2012 faced no consequences for their actions and remain on the job. On the same day that Jasmine was found guilty, police officers in Minneapolis were cleared of any wrongdoing in the killing of Jamar Clark. Since 2005, only 13 police officers have been convicted or murder or manslaughter despite an average of approximately 1,000 deadly police shootings each year. Yet Jasmine’s life has been disrupted for trying to protect someone from the harms police continue to inflict on our communities.

We must work to dismantle these systemic injustices by acknowledging how our country’s long history of racial injustices has created a system that targets black, brown, and poor people, and reinvest in those communities that have been most harmed. We must change current conditions, in which police can kill people with relative impunity yet arrest protesters challenging their violence with unobstructed ease.

Jasmine is scheduled to be sentenced on June 7. To help, you can sign this petition demanding the judge not sentence her to serve time in jail, or donate to her legal fees here and write “Jasmine” in the comment section.