Earlier this year the arrest of a young woman involved in “Black Lives Matter” protests sparked controversy and even criticism from Mayor Kevin Johnson, after the protester faced a felony charge of “lynching,” an archaic legal term used to describe the crime of attempting to free a prisoner from police custody.
On Thursday, the Sacramento County DA’s office dismissed the “lynching” charges at a hearing in the Sacramento Superior Court. The protester now faces a charge of resisting and impeding an arrest, Penal Code section 148, a misdemeanor, and will have a new hearing on May 21.
Maile Hampton, a 20-year-old African-American woman, was arrested for “lynching,” which stemmed from an anti-police brutality demonstration last January 18. Ms. Hampton is represented by prominent Sacramento defense attorney Linda Parisi.
At the time of her arrest, the mayor made a series of tweets.
“It is never ok for someone to interfere with the police, or try to remove someone who is in police custody,” the mayor wrote. “It is also the right of citizens to protest peacefully & make their voices heard like during public comments @ City Council Meetings. During public comments last night I was shocked to learn, in CA removing someone from police custody is defined as ‘lynching.’ The word ‘lynching’ has a long and painful history in our nation. It’s time to remove its use in CA Law.”
The crime “lynching” was put in place, ironically, to stop the lynching of blacks by whites who removed the individuals from police custody.
According to accounts in the Sacramento Bee, Ms. Hampton, along with many others, had been participating in a counter-protest near the Capitol to a pro-law enforcement rally in January. The police said that Ms. Hampton’s group was told by officers to walk on the sidewalk rather than the street. Some of the marchers refused and were detained by police.
As the police arrested protesters, some of the marchers attempted to pull their friends out of custody and Ms. Hampton, according to police, was one of the people identified who attempted to do so.
However, organizers such as Cres Vellucci of the National Lawyers Guild saw it differently. He said in a statement on Thursday, “Video of the incident Jan. 18 shows police pulling nonviolent activists out of line of marchers, and then violently throwing one arrested person to the ground. Activists were protesting a pro-police rally at the Capitol, but were illegally prevented from peacefully picketing on city streets near it. Sacramento City Police allowed everyone but demonstrators on the city streets, which is a violation of basic civil rights.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting