Why We Must Demand that the State #FreeJasmine

#FreeJasmine (Photo Credit: BlackLivesMatter)
#FreeJasmine (Photo Credit: BlackLivesMatter)

If ever you needed more proof that the state will do just about anything to uphold white supremacy, this story is it.

Jasmine Abdullah (aka Jasmine Richards) is an organizer with the Black Lives Matter Pasadena chapter. Last week, Jasmine was convicted of the felony charge of “attempted lynching.” It’s hard to decide what’s more disturbing: that Jasmine’s conviction is based on an almost laughable lack of criminal evidence, or that a Black woman is being criminalized by misapplication of a law initially designed to protect Black lives.

The charges stem from an August 2015 peace march that Jasmine helped organize to demand justice for Kendrec McDade, an unarmed Black teenager who was shot and killed by Pasadena police officers in 2012. At the peace march, 15-20 non-violent demonstrators including children on scooters spoke about an end to state-sanctioned violence against Black bodies in Pasadena.

Police allege that during that event, Pasadena police attempted to arrest a woman unrelated to the demonstration. Jasmine believed that the woman was being wrongfully detained, and prosecutors argue that Jasmine used her body to shield the woman from the arrest. Jasmine was later arrested based on this incident, and charged with “attempted lynching.”

The charges are based on a 1933 law designed to protect Black people or other people of colour from being unlawfully removed from police custody in order to lynch them. In order to support this charge, prosecutors argued that Jasmine’s attempt to protect a woman from an unlawful detainment was an effort by her to murder that woman, and that Jasmine’ peace march — y’know, the one with the kids on the scooters — was a “riot,” a prerequisite for an “attempted lynching” charge.

If that sounds like bullshit to you, it should because it’s fucking bullshit. Jasmine did not remove anyone for the purposes of lynching them, and there was no riot in progress at the time. Jasmine is a political prisoner who has been arrested, charged and convicted by the State of California in order to silence her pursuit of Black liberation. An anti-lynching law is being used to perpetrate a modern day lynching of a Black woman in the public eye.

Tomorrow, Jasmine faces up to four years in jail for her wrongful conviction of “lynching” before the court of Judge Elaine Lu.

There is literally nothing — nothing — that can be said to justify the state’s position in this case. The word of the law is being used to exert racialized violence and political suppression. The state has bent the definitions of their own laws to the breaking point in order to reinforce white supremacy. How can any person of colour feel safe in this system, when the criminal justice system is used so blatantly as a weapon of political terrorism?

Asian Americans, it’s time to join our Black and Brown brothers and sisters in this fight. It’s time to join our voices to the cries being heard nationwide that California #FreeJasmine. Because, if this is the lengths that the state will go to protect white supremacy and suppress Black uplift, then no non-White person can believe that this system will ever truly protect us. A system that doesn’t value Black lives can never truly value Asian American lives.

To join this fight, you can sign this Color of Change petition demanding that Jasmine receive no jail time for her wrongful conviction of “lynching.” You should also sign this “Justice for Jasmine” petition organized by 18MR, specifically focused on amplifying the voices of AAPIs who are angered and outraged by the State’s persecution of Jasmine.

Finally, if you are in the Pasadena area, please join the AAPI contingent marching with Black Lives Matter protesters at Jasmine “Abdullah” Richards’ sentencing tomorrow. Organized by members of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – LA, the AAPI contingent will meet tomorrow (June 7) at 8am at the Pasadena courthouse at 300 E. Walnut, Pasadena CA, 91101.

I urge you to join me and other concerned AAPI advocates in demanding freedom for Jasmine Richards and for all of the State’s political prisoners.

Our community can not continue to be complacent in this fight; complacency is complicity.

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