I come to you with a heavy heart. On Tuesday, Judge Elaine Lu sentenced Jasmine “Abdullah” Richards, a Pasadena Black Lives Matter leader, to 90 days in jail and 3 years probation following her persecution by L.A. District Attorney Jackie Lacie and the Pasadena Police Department for attempted lynching. This unjust sentencing has made a mockery of our justice system and sends a chilling message to social justice advocates across the country.
Our fight for Jasmine “Abdullah” Richards’ freedom is now in the hands of Governor Jerry Brown, who has the executive power to right Judge Lu and District Attorney Lacie's wrong-doing. Brown has a track record of using his pardon powers liberally. During his terms as Governor, he pardoned hundreds of people.1 With enough public pressure, we can make him do the same for Jasmine and send a message to police and prosecutors who would use their power to silence protest.
I flew to Pasadena earlier this week to stand with Black Lives Matter, 18 Million Rising, Democracy For America and other Jasmine supporters to deliver over 80,000 signatures from ColorOfChange. I have participated in a lot of Black Lives Matters actions -from Ferguson to Baltimore- but this was the most diverse I have taken part in. The love and communal support shown for Jasmine goes against everything police and prosecutors are saying about our movement.
While standing outside of the Pasadena courthouse prior to Jasmines sentencing, we chanted "I believe that we will win" and in a way we did. Jasmine could have received as much as four years in prison, but, with time served, she will be home in about 2 1/2 months. Still, without a pardon, Jasmine will be regulated to second-class citizenship as a convicted felon.
According to those in the courtroom, the judge was visibly stunned by the number of petitions when Jasmine's lawyer presented them and indicated she was inclined not to seek jail time before eventually bending to the insistence of the prosecutor. It was a powerful action, but our efforts must not stop until Jasmine is free and prosecutors understand that we won't stand by while they target movement leaders.
Following Jasmine's sentencing, Black Lives Matter Co-Founder, Patrisse Khan-Cullors stated, "Sentencing decisions like this one--along with last week’s light sentence for a Stanford athlete convicted of rape--show all too clearly that there are different, if unspoken, rules in our country’s justice system depending on one’s race, gender and class." We will continue to fight back to abolish the oppressive, unwritten rules for sentencing in this country !
1. "California Governor Jerry Brown Grants Dozens of Drug Offenses" Huffington Post, 4.19.14 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/6384?t=5&akid=5903.1942551.8ye6IZ