This morning I wanna tell you about a Louisiana police chief charging people with a felony hate crime punishable by 10 years in prison if they resist arrest.
Now I would normally say “welcome to Donald Trump’s America,” but Louisiana’s Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards signed this horrendous bill into law before Trump was even elected. And now that the state’s Blue Lives Matter law is in full effect, which is the first of its kind in the country, the troubling consequences are already being felt all across Louisiana.
According to St. Martinville Police Chief Calder Hebert, if somebody is arrested for the petty misdemeanor of stealing a candy bar from a convenience store, but then resists arrest, that person can and will be charged with a felony hate crime and sentenced to up to ten years in prison for it. In fact, if someone is wrongly arrested, but then resists that wrongful arrest, instead of simply being charged with the misdemeanor of resisting arrest, they too can be charged with a felony hate crime against police. It doesn’t matter if they actually hate police or not, which would seem to be a necessary requirement of a hate crime, resisting arrest is being made into a serious felony nonetheless.
In fact, Police Chief Calder Hebert told KATC News in Acadiana, Louisiana that he is already enforcing the law and charging people with felony hate crimes against police when they resist arrest.
“Resisting an officer or battery of a police officer was just that charge, simply. But now, Governor Edwards, in the legislation, made it a hate crime now,” said the chief.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is why we have more people in prison than any other nation in the world. Not only that, but we currently have a higher percentage of our people in prison than South Africa did at the height of apartheid. Making resisting an arrest into a felony hate crime is preposterous. First off, the charge of “resisting arrest” is already outrageously nebulous and regularly abused by police who can deem even the slightest movement or word or failure to immediately reply to a command as “resisting arrest.” I knew a man who had a police dog biting him all over his body, including his genitals, who was then charged with “resisting arrest” because he did not remain calm and still while the dog bit his balls. I knew a woman who was charged with resisting arrest because of her sluggish behaviors during a diabetic attack. I once shared a video of a black man who was charged with resisting arrest while he was in the middle of a stroke.
These laws, like most laws in America, will be used to criminalize blackness itself. White police officers will disproportionately enforce this new felony hate crime statute against people of color. Conservatives will then say more people of color are being charged with this ridiculous felony because people of color resist arrest more, but we know that’s not true. It’s all so damn predictable. What I know is that when a young white kid who had too much to drink gets a little rowdy with the police, this law simply won’t be applied to him. That’d be too much. Instead, Louisiana’s already crowded jails and prisons will continue to be overstuffed with black and brown bodies who did not endure their arrest in robotic silence – no matter how tight the cuffs or bogus the charge.
Not only that, but I have a hunch that body cameras will now work consistently when filming these scenarios. The same cameras that seem to always turn off right before an incident of police brutality will become the most reliable technology in the world when needed to film someone resisting arrest.
We are the incarceration nation and laws like this are what keep us on the trajectory of the problem getting worse and worse. And while it is always so much easier and convenient to blame Trump or blame conservatives, a Democrat signed this stupid law into existence.
I’ll close with this thought. Be careful in Louisiana. I’m not joking. A simple traffic ticket, under this law, could end up landing you in prison if police claim you’ve violated this Blue Lives Matter law. Ultimately, this law needs to be repealed, but until then, be careful. Film everything.