A US President has finally signed legislation criminalizing lynching, after 100 years and 200 failed attempts by US lawmakers. Lynching is murder by a mob with no due process or rule of law. Across the US, thousands of people, mainly African Americans, were lynched by white mobs, often by hanging or torture, in the 19th and 20th Centuries.
About 4,400 African Americans were lynched between 1877 and 1950, according to the Equal Justice Initiative. Those who participated in lynchings were often celebrated and acted with impunity. Joe Biden on Tuesday, March 29 signed legislation that designates lynching as a federal hate crime.
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The Emmett Till Antilynching Act is named for the black teenager whose brutal murder in Mississippi in 1955 helped spark the civil rights movement against lynching. Perpetrators of a lynching – death or injury resulting from a hate crime – will now face up to 30 years in jail. After signing the law, Biden said: “Thank you for never giving up, never ever giving up.
“Lynching was pure terror to enforce the lie that not everyone, not everyone, belongs in America, not everyone is created equal.” He added: “Racial hate isn’t an old problem – it’s a persistent problem. Hate never goes away. It only hides.”
The bill was passed unanimously in the Senate earlier in March. The House had voted overwhelmingly in support of the legislation last month. Three Republicans voted no: Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Chip Roy of Texas and Andrew Clyde of Georgia. They argued that it was already a hate crime to lynch people in the US.
Many racial justice advocates have described the death of Floyd, as well as the murder of Ahmaud Arbery – who was hunted down and shot by three white men in Georgia in 2020 – as modern-day lynchings, and following the passing of the anti-lynching bill, both deaths have been credited as modern day influences.