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In an almost unanimous vote, the US House of Representatives passed a bill to make lynching a federal hate crime.
If passed by the Senate and signed into law, the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act would make lynching punishable by life imprisonment.
The monumental vote is more than 100 years in the making. Congress has tried on over 200 occasions to pass anti-lynching legislation. Attempts in 2018 and 2020 gained steam in one chamber, but fell short in the other. Now, with Democrats controlling both the House and the Senate with momentum behind the bill, some believe this could be the year it gets done.
The Emmett Till Antilynching Act was named after the 14-year-old boy who was lynched by a mob of White men in Mississippi in 1955. Roy Bryant and J.W. Miliam abducted and brutally murdered the young boy for allegedly whistling at a White woman. The men shot and mutilated Emmett before throwing his body in the Tallahatchie River.
Both were acquitted of murder by an all-White jury.
Since Till’s lynching, efforts to make the heinous act a hate crime have continued, albeit against resistance. Even as recently as 2019, the sign marking the spot of Emmett’s killing was defaced by a group of Ole Miss students.
Now, it appears, Emmett Till may soon receive some form of justice as the bill named in his memory moves forward.
In a statement, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL), applauded his colleagues for “overwhelmingly passing the Emmett Till Antilynching Act.”
Rep. Rush said the bill was “long-overdue legislation that would correct a historical injustice by finally specifying lynching as a crime under federal law.”
Three Republicans still chose to oppose making lynching a hate crime
More than 420 members of Congress voted in favor of the legislation. Three Republicans, however, chose to vote against it.
Republican Reps. Andrew Clyde of Georgia, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Chip Roy of Texas all voted ‘no’. In a bizarre defense of his vote on Twitter, Rep. Massie claimed the anti-lynching bill would “endanger freedom of speech”.
“This bill expands current federal “hate crime” laws,” Massie lamented.
“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.”
Massie, Clyde and Roy have all received fierce pushback online and in the press for their decision to try and stop the bill.
“Sometimes politicians should quit politicking and just vote against lynching,” one Twitter user replied to Rep. Massie. “My god.”
The bill now heads to the US Senate where, NBC News reports, it is “expected to pass unanimously“. From there, it would head to President Biden’s desk for signature.