Occupier Arrested Under Obscure 'Lynching' Law

With the recent news of occupiers being removed from a Greyhound bus to the arrest of the chalking culprit, martyrdom is knocking on the door of many occupy protestors. On Friday the 13th, I participated in the Occupy LA foreclosure action in

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With the recent news of occupiers being removed from a Greyhound bus to the arrest of the chalking culprit, martyrdom is knocking on the door of many occupy protestors. On Friday the 13th, I participated in the Occupy LA foreclosure action in downtown with no arrests or major confrontations (except for one guy who was really angry about not being able to enter his bank). There was plenty of media coverage, which is why I suspect there was no overt police harassment.

The night before when there were no cameras or media during a demonstration at LA Art Walk, the police seemed to be extremely aggressive and arrested a protestor who stepped onto the street momentarily. The protester was charged with "lynching," according to attorney Sue Basko. At least one other protester was detained, and it is not yet clear if that person was arrested or released. The video above was posted on YouTube, claiming to capture the moments before the lynching arrest.

Sue Basko, an attorney who blogged about the incident on Occupy LA website, had this to say:

From what I can gather from written accounts and a video, this is what happened: The sidewalks were very crowded. A drummer named Adam stepped into the street to walk around a car. Police swarmed him to arrest him. The police recognized Sergio and cherry-picked him. Sergio and his girlfriend were thrown to the ground. Sergio had just appeared a few days prior on a major mainstream media news talk show, speaking eloquently on behalf of his experiences in the Occupy movement. CLICK TO VIEW. Sergio was arrested and charged with lynching.

The lynching violation is CA Penal Code 405a: Lynching: “The taking by means of a riot of any person from the lawful custody of any peace officer is a lynching.”

The judge in re Anthony J., 1999 cites Jones and states:

Under California law, “lynching” includes not only the notorious form of lynch mob behavior that aims to take vengeance on the victim, but also any participation in riotous conduct aimed at freeing a person from the custody of a peace officer. Accordingly, we conclude that a person who takes part in a riot leading to his escape from custody can be convicted of his own lynching.

[Emphasis mine.]

California has a history of people being charged with their own lynching. In 2009, a Modesto DA said that lynching was “a tremendous sign of disrespect to the law enforcement community.”

Professor Chris Waldrep, who's written several books on lynching, said the definition of lynching varies from state to state, and doesn't always involve racial violence. Most lynching laws have two common elements: "There's an unruly crowd, and the act committed is an affront or insult to law enforcement," said Waldrep.

Lynching is also a felony charge with a 2 – 4 year sentence.

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