June 22, 2020

It's the year 2020, and we still cannot get Congress to make lynching a federal crime. Unconscionable.

With the racist extremists seeing tangible evidence that their imagined white superiority and unearned supremacy won't continue to garner them them privilege they believe they deserve, a disturbing trend has reared its head across the nation. As laws banning chokeholds are passed in the wake of George Floyd's murder, as police departments are being disbanded and no-knock warrants being outlawed in memory of Breonna Taylor, dark history is coming back to haunt us.

Black and brown people are being found dead, hanging from trees in public places. Three Black men, one Black teenage boy, one Black trans woman, and one Latino man have been found dead across the country. Police have ruled every one of these deaths suicide. In only one case does the family agree.

Joy Reid seems to be the only national journalist covering this, and devoted an entire segment to the topic, bringing on law enforcement analyst Jim Cavanaugh to discuss it.

REID: More than 100 years after pioneering and as of this year, posthumous pulitzer prize winning journalist, Ida Bae Wells, fought for the anti-lynching in the United States, United States Senator Cory Booker is leading the charge to finally make lynching a federal crime. It's a fight that's been re-ignited by nationwide protests and calls for racial justice, since George Floyd's death, and the shock after the video-taped chasing and killing of Ahmaud Arbery by. three white men in Georgia. The push also comes amid recent hanging deaths of black and hispanic men across the country. The FBI is monitoring the investigation into the deaths of two black men found hanging from trees in Southern California. Ten days apart. Though the family of one of the men now says they believe his death was a suicide. There have been at least five indents of hangings in public places in recent weeks that have all been ruled suicides. But some of the families of the victims are not convinced and are demanding thorough investigations. Joining me now is Jim Cavanaugh, MSNBC law enforcement analyst.

I want to show you a brief headline of the recent cases. In California, two black men, California hanging death of Black men summoned a dark history and FBI scrutiny. In New York, a death of a man found hanging in the tree in Manhattan, that was ruled a suicide by the medical examiner. In Houston, a teen said to have hanged himself on elementary school property. A man found dead in apparent suicide outside of a store in Shady Acres. A lot of people -- it's all in my twitter feed and in my text messages a lot of people don't believe these are suicides. What goes into deciding whether or not a case like this is a suicide or a homicide?

CAVANAUGH: Well, it's the complete circumstances, Joy, that surround the violent death. And it takes a trained investigators to go in there and look, get all the facts and you know, these are cases when Black men are hung from trees in public places that the police, law enforcement, has to step up, more than say a death in the private apartment, with the locked door, with a note that, you know, it's pretty clear it's suicide. They can tell the family members. Here, you have a history of over 4,000 lynchings in America of Black men in public places. And this is just another case, in my view, of law enforcement just not in tune enough with our history to understand the angst any of these deaths cause, just to begin with, whether they're murder or suicide. They need to be thoroughly investigated, each and every one, on the separate merits, and good homicide investigators and medical examiners can usually tell the difference. But they've got to share the facts with the public and the family, if it in fact is suicide. If it's homicide, they really need to put a lot of resources on it and go after it heavy.

While I appreciate Cavanaugh's gift for understatement, I hope everyone hears the searing criticism he is handing down of the way police are handling these cases. Later on in the program, Reid asked him about the Ahmaud Arbery case, and if he would classify that as a lynching. He said he absolutely would, and that the very first thing that should have happened is that the men who fired the shots should have had his guns taken and he should have been taken into custody. He said, "The only thing missing was the rope."

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