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California lawmakers pass bill criminalizing racist 911 calls

“An individual could lose their life in the wrong situation,” said Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer.

BBQ Becky YouTube

California lawmakers passed a bill making it a crime to call 911 for discriminatory reasons. The legislation was passed on Monday (Aug. 31) and will now move to the office of Gov. Gavin Newsom.

It is already illegal to report a false crime, but this new bill will also make it a hate crime if a false report is filed based on someone’s race, sex or religion.

“The bill would additionally make a false report that is a hate crime punishable as a misdemeanor or a felony if it is committed for the purpose of intimidating or interfering with that other person’s free exercise or enjoyment of their rights,” the bill states.

“The current punishment for making a false police report does not address the growing number of cases of peace officers being summoned to violate the rights of, for example, Black and Brown individuals for doing day-to-day activities—essentially living their lives,” the legislation states.

In 2018, one of the most viral incidents took place in Oakland, California after a white woman called the police on several Black people for using a charcoal grill in a local park. She became known as “BBQ Becky” and the incident sparked nationwide outrage.

“You can make jokes about it. But it’s not a laughing matter. An individual could lose their life in the wrong situation,” Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer told the Los Angeles Times. “I was watching more and more people being adversely affected by it as this [Trump] administration gave license for someone who was bigoted to target Blacks and Latinos.”

According to the bill, “it is up to the Legislature to help end the use of peace officers as a personal force for people who harbor racial animus—it is a waste of time and resources to have the police deployed when criminal activity is not occurring.”

If convicted, the caller could face fines up to $10,000 and jail time.

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