Several videos showing white people calling the police on people of color for controversial reasons have gone viral this summer. Now, one lawmaker is fighting to make it illegal to report people simply based on race.
It seems there’s a new viral incident, almost weekly. In April, a white Starbucks manager called police on two black males, who were waiting for their friend inside the Philadelphia store. The following month, a woman, dubbed BBQ Becky by the internet, called police on black men who were grilling in a park in Oakland, Calf. Then, there’s Permit Patty, who called to report a young black girl selling water without a permit on a San Francisco sidewalk.
New York State Sen. Jesse Hamilton (D) proposed new legislation that would make calling police on law-abiding people of color a hate crime.
“We have to draw a line in the sand,” says Sen. Hamilton. “This is a phenomenon that's happening all throughout the country, where people are using the police as private security, to interrogate, to intimidate, to harass and humiliate.”
Sen. Hamilton says it has even happened to him. He says a woman called police while he was campaigning in his own district, and all because she didn’t like his message.
“I’m saying, no, that shouldn’t happen. No one should be interrogated or humiliated because of their color of their skin, political beliefs, sex orientation,” says Sen. Hamilton. “They should not be harassed like that.”
The bill, if passed, would criminalize making police reports against people of color without evidence of malice.
"For people of color, this is just an extension of Jim Crow, where people see someone they don't understand or feel intimidated by them, just call the police and not knowing that could lead to someone being shot, murdered,” explains Hamilton.
The senator says President Donald Trump’s rhetoric has given fringe voices, which may have kept quiet in the past, a megaphone. Hamilton says having the cops called on him for exercising his First Amendment rights was the last straw.
"You shouldn't call 911 for someone who is just walking around, acting under the Constitution of the United States. That shouldn't happen."