Essence festivalgoers avoid police felony trap

Day 26 Essence Festival Joi Pearson Photography-40
Day 26 Essence Festival Joi Pearson Photography-40

In the many videos that have been placed on online recording police abusing a suspect, the words “stop resisting” are frequently heard from police. These words are often shouted as the suspect is lying on the ground with one or more officers beating the living hell out of the person as he or she declares “I’m not resisting.” The end result is that when the person is booked at the police station, a charge of resisting arrest is automatically entered. The beatings and in some cases death of a suspect resulted in the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. Sparked by the death of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, BLM succeeded in getting not only the United States but the world to bear witness to how communities of color are policed. In response, the opponents of BLM started a counter campaign called Blue Lives Matter to show support for police in all situations, apparently even if they are in the wrong. President Donald Trump, during his campaign, repeated the Blue Lives Matter phrase and states began to enact laws in 2016, which are in effect in 2017. The White House in support released its “Standing Up For Our Law Enforcement Community” platform that is being used to further support the oppressive behavior of police in communities of color. The state of Louisiana has now taken this to a new level just in time for Essence Festival 2017.

Now, in Louisiana a person charged with resisting arrest will also be charged with a hate crime against police under the state’s Blue Lives Matter law. Such a charge will be a felony and the person could face up to 10 years to life in prison. It is a shocking and unjust use of law that will disproportionally affect the Black community and cause a crackdown on political dissenters. Groups of protestors who peacefully resist during a demonstration now risk their freedom at the whim of a police officer’s word against their own. At any large gathering such as the Essence Festival, there is always an element of petty crimes that result in an arrest. But there are also situations where a person feels they are being harassed or unjustly detained and that person may resist either verbally or physically; that can count as resisting arrest. The new law will bring a chilling spirit to the normal fun of Essence Festival, as attendees must always have in the back of their mind that if they choose the right to resist a police action, it could mean years in jail.

The law is unjust and goes beyond the known definition of a hate crime. According to the legal website NOLO, a hate crime “is a crime committed against an individual because of the victim’s race, color, religion, ancestry or national origin, gender, disability, or sexual orientation.”

But in Louisiana legislators feel that it is now expanded to a person’s job. No one is born “Blue.” Becoming a police officer is a choice for employment, not a condition of birth.

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