Jan. 26, 2017 04:38 PM

Think about this: In a small town in the Deep South that is 63 percent black, the white police chief boasts that he is using a newly created hate crime law for police and first responders to upgrade from a misdemeanor to a felony the charge of resisting arrest, which could potentially add additional time to a suspect's prison sentence — even, presumably, if the person isn’t ultimately found guilty of the original crime they were suspected of at the time of their arrest. This is disturbing on many levels.

KATC first reported the story with the headline, “St. Martinville Police hope change comes with state’s new hate crime law.” I can’t help but appreciate the adjacency of hope and change in the headline, which harkens back to the Obama era even as we enter the creeping fascism of Trump. KATC, if you did that on purpose, bravo! (A caution to readers: Do not, under any circumcisions, read the comment section on KATC’s Facebook page; it is the epitome of Trumpism and has been long before Trump.)

In the online story and TV report, St. Martinville Police Chief Calder Hebert confirms his broad interpretation — and use — of the so-called Blue Lives Matter law passed last year by the Louisiana Legislature: “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,” Hebert told the TV station.

The legislation that led to the Blue Lives Matter law was prompted last summer following the murder of three law enforcement officers in Baton Rouge. The year had been marked by nationwide protests by the Black Lives Matter movement in response to fatal police shootings of black people including, just two weeks earlier, the shooting death of Alton Sterling by Baton Rouge Police outside a convenience store, an act that was the motive for the fatal assault on police in Baton Rouge.

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, the son of the former sheriff and brother of the current sheriff in Tangipahoa Parish, readily signed the bill.

White police chief. Majority-black town. Resisting arrest a potential felony. This is a story that has legs and is getting national attention. New York Daily News’ Shaun King wrote about it yesterday:

This, ladies and gentlemen, is why we have more people in prison than any other nation in the world. 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 failure to immediately reply to a command as “resisting arrest.”

... 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.

Read the rest of King’s column here.


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