By J. Shadé Quintanilla
The Los Angeles and Pasadena chapter of Black Lives Matter (BLM) is accusing Pasadena police of purposely targeting their group after a series of arrests made by police last week. BLM Pasadena founder, Jasmine Richards, 28, and other members were arrested in connection to a confrontation between the group and police at a local park.
On Aug. 29, Richards and other BLM youth members were holding a peace march in La Pintoresca Park. Police Chief Phillip Sanchez stated that the protestors interfered with an arrest of a black woman, Benita Escoe, who was not associated with the group or the march. Police attempted to arrest the suspect for allegedly refusing to pay the bill at a nearby restaurant and assaulting staff. Sanchez noted that Escoe tried to disguise herself by blending in with the protestors at the park, but when she moved away from the group, police attempted to arrest her.
While police were in the process of handcuffing Escoe, the protesters noticed the arrest and allegedly intervened by trying to pull her away from officers. When police finally handcuffed Escoe and placed her into a police vehicle, Sanchez reported that the protestors, including Richards and a few minors, blocked the car from leaving the area forcing officers to exit their vehicles in order to create a clear path. No other arrests were made on that day.
The following week, Pasadena police made a series of arrests of the protesters involved in the confrontation. On Aug. 31, an 11-year-old protester was placed into police custody on suspicion of willfully resisting, obstructing, or delaying police officers from the performance of their duties. He was released hours later to his mother with a citation. Seven other BLM members apart of the peace march were arrested last Thursday for similar charges, including a 13- and 15-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl. They were later released with citations.
On Sept. 2, Richards was arrested and jailed on suspicion of child endangerment, inciting a riot and resisting or obstructing police duties. She was later charged on Friday by the Los Angeles County District Attorney with a felony lynching, which is defined by California law as taking a person out of police custody by means of a riot.
Richards posted multiple videos of the confrontation between BLM Pasadena and the police on Facebook. In a post on the day the 11-year-old boy was arrested, Richards wrote, “They never gave out a dispersal order. They took out [their] sticks and started [chasing] after children.” In another post the same day, she called the boy a “political prisoner” and accused the police of “trying to scare [BLM Pasadena] youth into submission.”
BLM members and Richards’ attorney, Nana Gyamfi, held a press conference in front of the Pasadena Jail on Friday in order to urge Pasadena police to drop the charges and release Richards. They accused of the police of harassing and intimidating BLM Pasadena and the black community.
“They are arresting and prosecuting people for their political beliefs and for their exercise of their free speech rights,” Gyamfi said. “When this happens in any other country, this country calls it terror. Yet, the Pasadena Police Department and its prosecutors are doing that.”
BLM Pasadena member Michael Williams also criticized Pasadena police.
“Jasmine has been arrested twice. Both occasions were many days after the demonstration, proving that this is not anything about law and order or about justice,” he said. “This is about a vendetta that the police have against Black Lives Matter Pasadena and those who are involved.”
In March, Richards was arrested on suspicion for multiple misdemeanors related to a BLM Pasadena protest days before. The case is still pending.
Richards was released from jail on Sept. 6 on a $75,000 bail. She is scheduled to return to court later this month for a preliminary hearing.