U.S. Sen. Rand Paul is reportedly holding up the passage of the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, a bill that would make lynching a federal hate crime.
First introduced in the U.S. House of representatives in January 2019, the act specifies that “whoever conspires with another person to violate section 245, 247, or 249 of this title or section 901 of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (42 U.S.C. 3631) shall be punished in the same manner as a completed violation of such section, except that if the maximum term of imprisonment for such completed violation is less than 10 years, the person may be imprisoned for not more than 10 years.”
When speaking with reporters on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Paul indicated that he was opposed to how the text in the bill was currently written, as he did not think “it’s a good idea to conflate someone who has an altercation where they had minor bruises, with lynching.”
“We think that’s a disservice to those who were lynched in our history, who continue to have, we continue to have these problems,” Paul said, according to a transcription of his statements tweeted by National Journal reporter Zach C. Cohen.
“And I think it’s a disservice to have a new 10-year penalty for people who have minor bruising. We’ve tried to exclude that part from the bill, and we’be been working with the authors to try to make the bill better. ... If you’re gonna call something an anti-lynching bill, but you’re gonna have a new conspiracy charge for someone who has minor bruising, we don’t think that’s appropriate.”
During a Thursday Senate hearing, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris commented on Paul’s remarks regarding the lynching bill.
“To suggest that lynching would only be a lynching if someone’s heart was pulled out and produced and displayed to someone else is ridiculous,” Harris said. “Senator Paul is now trying to weaken a bill that was already passed. There is no reason for this.”
Harris gave her remarks on the same day as the Minneapolis memorial for George Floyd, where Floyd’s family, as well as several celebrities and prominent figures, gathered to pay tribute to Floyd while advocating for justice and reform.
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Floyd died on May 25 after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for an extended period of time. Chauvin now faces murder charges, while three of his fellow police officers are charged with aiding and abetting in Floyd’s death, which has been ruled a homicide.
Floyd’s death has sparked protests ranging from peaceful to violent in major cities across the world. In the U.S., local and state leaders have implemented curfews and requested National Guard troops to help sustain civility. President Donald Trump has condemned actions of violent protesters, while former president Barack Obama advocated on the necessity of reform within local police departments and governments to bring about effective change.