|Apparently 20-year-old Maile Hampton (top right, and bottom) has become quite an effective activist and therefore a |
thorn in the side of authorities that had to be "made an example of."
By Channing Joseph
In the year 2015—just over a century after Romeo’s tragic end—the lynching era has been so thoroughly forgotten by most of us that a young black woman is now facing a four-year prison term in a case that turns the meaning of the word “lynching” inside out.
On Jan. 18, a pro-police rally was being held near the Capitol building in Sacramento, Calif., and Maile Hampton, a 20-year-old activist, was attending a counter-rally. She and others were raising their voices against killings, by both police and vigilantes, of unarmed black people—such as Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in New York last year. (It’s an issue that some might argue is the contemporary analogy to lynching.)
As Hampton’s group marched on the Capitol Mall, officers ordered it to move onto the sidewalk, and those marchers who did not immediately comply were arrested. In a YouTube video of the incident, some protesters—and Hampton is allegedly one of these—appear to try to pull their comrades out of police custody, a felony that the California penal code defines as “lynching.”
On Feb. 23, more than a month after the protest, Hampton was arrested at her home, saddled with both “lynching” and obstruction-of-justice charges. She spent the night in jail before being released on $100,000 bail, and she is scheduled to be arraigned in Sacramento Superior Court on April 9. Her defense lawyer, Linda Parisi, has advised her not to speak to reporters.
Understandably, Hampton’s case has caused both bewilderment and outrage among activists in Northern California and elsewhere. ANSWER Coalition—an anti-war, anti-racist organization—has started an online petition demanding that Sacramento’s district attorney, Anne Marie Schubert, drop the charges.
Schubert and the police in California’s capital are apparently unaware of the irony of prosecuting a black social-justice activist under a 1933 law meant to protect people of color from the kind of racist vigilantes that kidnapped and killed Romeo in my hometown.