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House passes bill making lynching a federal hate crime

The House passed legislation on Monday that would classify lynching as a federal hate crime.

Lawmakers easily passed the bill, which is named after Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African American boy who was lynched in 1955, on a 422-3 vote.

While the bill sailed through with bipartisan support, three Republicans — Reps. Andrew Clyde (Ga.), Thomas Massie (Ky.) and Chip Roy (Texas) — voted against it.

The legislation’s passage comes more than 120 years after the first federal anti-lynching legislation was introduced by then-Rep. George Henry White, who was the only Black member of Congress at that time.

“Our nation endured a shameful period during which thousands of African Americans were lynched as a means of racial subordination and enforcing white supremacy. These violent incidents were largely tolerated by state and federal officials, and they represent a stain on our nation’s legacy,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.).

“Today, we acknowledge this disgraceful chapter in American history, and we send a clear message that such violent actions — motivated by hatred and bigotry — will not be tolerated in this country,” Nadler said.

The bill, authored by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), would designate lynching as a hate crime punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

More than 4,700 lynchings occurred in the U.S. between 1882 to 1968, according to an estimate from the NAACP. Black people made up most of the victims of lynching, since typically white perpetrators would use the attacks to terrorize them.

The highest number of lynchings were in Mississippi, where Till was beaten and shot in the head by two white men for allegedly flirting with a white woman.

An all-white jury found the two men not guilty of Till’s murder. But the men later admitted in a magazine interview a year later that they had in fact killed Till.

The House previously passed the bill in 2020, but Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) objected to clearing it by unanimous consent in the upper chamber.

Paul’s objection came even though the Senate had previously passed a version of the bill in 2018 by unanimous consent.

Paul said that he was concerned it might “conflate lesser crimes” like minor assaults as lynching.

“There has to be justice. People are chanting justice. [But] justice has to have a brain and has to have vision and can’t be hamstrung into something that could give someone ten years in prison for a minor crime,” Paul said at the time.

Paul is now indicating that he supports the latest iteration of the bill after working with senators leading the effort in the upper chamber.

“I’m pleased to have worked with Senators Cory Booker and Tim Scott to strengthen the final product and ensure the language of this bill defines lynching as the absolutely heinous crime that it is, and I’m glad to cosponsor this bipartisan effort,” Paul said in a statement on Monday.

Tags Anti-lynching movement Bobby Rush Chip Roy Cory Booker Emmett Till Jerry Nadler Lynching in the United States Rand Paul Thomas Massie Tim Scott
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