The House of Representatives has easily passed a bill that would make lynching a federal hate crime, with only three Republicans voting against it.
Rep. Bobby L. Rush presented the Emmett Till Antilynching Act [HR 55], which was named after the Black 14-year-old who was killed in Mississippi in 1955.
The bill intends to alter section 249 of title 18 of the United States Code to designate lynching as a hate crime act, punishable by up to 30 years in prison for anybody who conspires to conduct such an act resulting in death or significant physical damage.
The law was carried by a vote of 422 to 3 on Monday night. Republican Reps. Andrew S. Clyde (GA), Thomas Massie (KY), and Chip Roy (FL) were the only three congressmen to vote against the Emmett Till Antilynching Act (TX).
Following the vote, Massie explained why he voted against the measure to make lynching a federal hate crime in a series of tweets.
“The Constitution specifies only a handful of federal crimes, and leaves the rest to individual states to prosecute,” Massie said.
“This bill expands current federal ‘hate crime’ laws. A crime is a crime, and all victims deserve equal justice. Adding enhanced penalties for “hate” tends to endanger other liberties such as freedom of speech.
“Lynching a person is already illegal in every state. Passing this legislation falsely implies that lynching someone does not already constitute criminal activity.”
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“Today is a day of enormous consequence for our nation,” Rep. Rush said in a statement. “By passing my Emmett Till Antilynching Act, the House has sent a resounding message that our nation is finally reckoning with one of the darkest and most horrific periods of our history and that we are morally and legally committed to changing course.
“I was eight years old when my mother put the photograph of Emmett Till’s brutalized body that ran in Jet magazine on our living room coffee table, pointed to it, and said, ‘this is why I brought my boys out of Albany, Georgia.’ That photograph shaped my consciousness as a Black man in America, changed the course of my life, and changed our nation.”
“Modern-day lynchings,” such as the murder of Black man Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia in February 2020, prove that the “racial hatred and terror that inspired the lynching of Emmett Till” are still alive in the United States today, according to Rush.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi credited “generations of fearless campaigners,” including Rush, for the bill’s passage.
“Nearly seven decades later, the brutal murder of Emmett Till is forever seared into our collective memory,” Pelosi said.
“Sadly, hateful attacks are not yet a relic of the past: from the scourge of police violence to assaults on houses of worship. That is why the Democratic Congress is hard at work empowering our legal system with more tools to bring perpetrators to justice.”
Pelosi also demanded that the Senate “take quick action” and bring the bill to President Joe Biden for signature.