White People 4 Black Lives believes the recent unjust conviction of Black Lives Matter activist Jasmine (Richards) Abdullah, and the 8-year sentence meted out to Joshua Williams in Ferguson for property damage during protest, underscore again the fundamental inequity and racism in a criminal (in)justice system that provides impunity to racist murders by police while criminalizing dissent and advocacy of human rights by Black freedom fighters.
These court results, while unacceptable, are not unprecedented; they are unfortunately more often the rule rather than the exception. Targeted surveillance, "kettling" of protesters (blocking egress while simultaneously declaring an assembly unlawful and ordering dispersal), mass arrests, abusive language and physical provocation and mistreatment of Black activists, selective prosecution, and harsh sentencing for protesters have become the order of the day in an effort to chill dissent and public exposures of police killings, shootings, beatings and deaths in custody. Law enforcement and prosecutors in L.A. County have gone after outspoken demonstrators and organizers of resistance to police abuse, while providing no legal check on police officers who maim and kill, even when their actions are found "out of policy" by the LA Board of Police Commissioners, charged with community oversight of the LAPD.
This is not new. Going back to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, institutional enforcers of the status quo of racism and white supremacy have used any means at their disposal to try to quash dissent and resistance. The attempt to criminalize and intimidate Black Lives Matter advocates and allies today has all the hallmarks of the beatings and arrests of civil rights protesters and voting rights advocates, the targeting and politically motivated frame-ups of Black Panthers, and the infiltration and surveillance of groups like the Coalition Against Police Abuse. Meanwhile, the infrequent prosecutions of police who kill Black people that result in acquittals or wrist slaps, as well as the much more frequent refusal to prosecute or even name such officers, make it clear that District Attorneys and courts are complicit in the "blue wall of silence" and guarantee of impunity that allow racist police killings to continue.
The school-to-prison pipeline, the racist disparities in police stops, arrests, convictions and sentencing, the use of mass incarceration to confine and control Black communities, and the targeting of activists who seek to expose, address and overturn such evils is testament to the deeply rooted nature of racism and white supremacy not only in the criminal justice system, but in the entire political, economic and social system it upholds and protects. Reinforcing racism in housing, education, employment and even the environment, such systematic injustice must be ended NOW. The costs in stolen lives, blighted aspirations and even in planetary ecological sustainability are too great to be borne any longer.
What you can do:
There are 4 ways you can support:
1. Please sign and share the Color of Change petition to #FreeJasmine here
2. Write a support letter and send it to Jasmine's attorney firstname.lastname@example.org and send it to Judge Elaine Lu. You may use language such as:
Jasmine Richards was recently and unjustly convicted of a felony in Pasadena. I have personally witnessed how this valiant and socially conscious young women has been repeatedly and selectively targeted for police harassment, intimidation and arrest at protests in which we both participated and at the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners meetings we have both attended. Engaged in similar first amendment protected speech, our treatment has been entirely different, which I suspect is because I am a 69-year old white male retired school teacher -- nonetheless outraged about racist police murders and vocal about it. But police do not single me out as they do Jasmine, whom they seem to perceive as an existential threat. I believe her arrest, prosecution and conviction are unjustified, and I urge you to exert your judicial authority to suspend any sentence if you cannot indeed exculpate her and toss the conviction out entirely.
3. Donate to Black Lives Matter LA Legal Defense at www.crowdrise.com/blmla and make a note "Jasmine" for funds to go to her support.
4. Share this solidarity statement with your networks and help get the word out about the conviction.