Biden signs bill making lynching a federal hate crime into law

Biden signs bill making lynching a federal hate crime into law

At a signing ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House, the president did not hold back in describing the history of racial violence experienced by black Americans and its continuing impact.

He said: “The lynching was pure terror to enforce the lie that not everyone… belongs to America, not everyone is created equal. Terror, to systematically undermine civil rights that have been fought so hard for. Terror, not not only in the dark of night, but in broad daylight. Innocent men, women and children hanging from nooses in trees, bodies burned, drowned and castrated.”

“His crimes? Trying to vote. Trying to go to school. Trying to own a business or preach the gospel. False accusations of murder, arson and robbery. Just being black,” he continued.

The bill Biden signed into law, the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act of 2022, is named after a 14-year-old black boy from Chicago who was brutally murdered by a group of white men in Mississippi for allegedly whistling at a white woman in 1955. His murder sparked national outrage and was a catalyst for the emerging civil rights movement.

Lynching was a terror tactic used against African Americans, particularly in the racially segregated South. According to University of Tuskegeewhich collects records on lynchings, between 1882 and 1968 4,743 people were lynched and 3,446 of them were black.

Reflecting on the “unwritten rules” of behavior that Till’s mother passed on to her son, the president said: “That same caveat: Too many black parents still have to use that. They have to tell their kids that when it comes to encounters with law enforcement.”

Biden said the new law is “not just about the past,” noting the murder of a 25-year-old black man who was jogging and a 2017 Virginia rally of white supremacists and white nationalists where a counter-protester was killed and dozens were injured.

“From the bullets in Ahmaud Arbery’s back to countless other acts of violence, countless known and unknown victims, the same racial hatred that led the mob to hang a noose drove that torch-bearing mob from the fields of Charlottesville just a few years ago, racial hatred is not an old problem. It is a persistent problem,” he emphasized.

Advocates have been trying to pass federal anti-lynching legislation for more than a century.

Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois, who introduced the signed bill Tuesday, also introduced a similar version of his current bill in 2019. The following year, the House passed that bill, but Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, held it. above worries that was too wide. Pablo announced their support for the latest version of the bill earlier this month.

And when Vice President Kamala Harris was a senator, she and New Jersey Democratic Senator Cory Booker and South Carolina Republican Senator Tim Scott introduced a bill that would make lynching a federal hate crime. The Senate passed the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act in late 2018, but the legislation failed to pass the House of Representatives.

During the signing ceremony, Harris noted that since anti-lynching legislation was first introduced in Congress in 1900, “anti-lynching legislation has been introduced in the United States Congress more than 200 times.”

“Lynching is not a relic of the past. Acts of racial terror still occur in our nation. And when they happen, we must all have the courage to name them and hold the perpetrators to account,” he added.

The ceremony was attended by a wide range of advocates, administration officials and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, with Biden thanking stakeholders “for never giving up.”

Standing next to Michelle Duster, the great-granddaughter of Ida B. Wells-Barnettthe president noted that Wells-Barnett came to the White House in 1898 “to uphold the law against lynching.”

Only three House Republicans — Andrew Clyde of Georgia, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Chip Roy of Texas — voted against the bill. The legislation later passed the Senate by unanimous consent. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said at the time that Congress had tried and failed more than 200 times to ban lynchings and that new legislation was “long overdue.”

Rush, who attended the White House ceremony, said in a statement that he was “elated” to see the bill become law, adding, “I am so proud that we have come together, on a bipartisan basis, to enact a law that ensures that lynchings are always punished as the barbaric crimes that they are.

Till’s cousin, the Rev. Wheeler Parker Jr., said in a statement: “My cousin was a bright and promising 14-year-old from Chicago. My family was devastated that no one was responsible for the kidnapping, torture and murder of Till. Emmett. But we’re encouraged by this new law, which shows that Emmett still speaks powerfully to make sure no one can get away with a racist crime like this ever again.”

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the National Urban League also praised the signing of the law.

The fund’s president, Janai S. Nelson, said the organization commends “Congress and President Biden for passing this long overdue bill and signing it into law, and for sending a clear message that the US government is committed to to deter this pernicious form of violence.”

This story has been updated with additional developments on Tuesday.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated where Emmett Till was from. He was from Chicago.

CNN’s Nicole Chavez contributed to this report.

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