Hamilton Floats 911 Anti-Discrimination Legislation

Senator Jesse Hamilton
Senator Jesse Hamilton announced “911 Anti-Discrimination Legislation” (photo by Tsubasa Berg)

State Sen. Jesse Hamilton (D-Brownsville, Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Gowanus, Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, South Slope, Sunset Park) yesterday announced legislation that would add penalties to people reporting false crimes simply because the reports are based on their race.

Dubbed the 911 Anti-Discrimination legislation, Hamilton’s proposal aims to combat the misuse of 911 and the growing number of  “living while black” incidents that have occurred both in New York and around the country. This includes an incident that happened to Hamilton last Thursday at the Prospect Park B/Q/S station entrance, when a woman called the police on him for campaigning for his re-election bid.

“Living while black is not a crime, but making a false report – especially motivated by hate – should be. That is why I am introducing legislation today to add to the false reporting statutes to the list of hate crimes in New York State law. Our laws should recognize that false reports with hateful intent can have deadly consequences,” said Hamilton.

Anthony Beckford, Democratic candidate for the 42nd Assembly District seat discusses the legislation as Sen. Jesse Hamilton, right, looks on. (Photo by Tsubasa Berg).

Under Hamilton’s proposed bill there would be a further differentiation among false reports, adding penalties based on the intent of the false reporting.

The list of charges eligible for hate crimes sentencing enhancements would include First, Second, and Third Degree false reporting, increasing the penalties by one class for all three. In this instance, meaning the motivation for false reporting is a perception or belief about an individual’s race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability, or sexual orientation.

Hamilton believes this change in law – adding false reporting to the list of crimes covered by hate crimes law and sentencing enhancements – sends an important message about the seriousness with which the state takes these potentially dangerous situations.

  • In addition to the 911 call against Senator Hamilton, recent “Living While Black” reports include:
  • In April, a white woman, who has since been dubbed “BBQ Becky,” calling the Oakland Police Department to report picnickers having a barbecue.
  • In April, a Pennsylvania golf course calling police on five black women they claimed were golfing too slowly.
  • In April, two black men at a Philadelphia Starbucks being reported to the police and arrested.
  • In May, a neighbor called the police on three departing Airbnb guests in California. One guest, Donisha Prendergast, who wrote, “Got surrounded by the police for being black in a white neighbourhood.”
  • In May, a white woman called police on a Yale graduate student taking a nap in a common room
  • In June, a white woman, dubbed “Permit Patty,” called San Francisco police on an eight-year-old child selling water
  • In July, Oregon State Rep. Janelle Bynum was knocking on doors when a neighbor called 911 on her
  • In July, a Smith College employee called police on a Smith College student eating her lunch
  • In July, a CVS manager in Chicago calling the police on a black woman over a coupon

“People of color should be able to eat lunch at college in peace. That’s not an emergency at Smith College for 911. People of color should be able to wait for a friend at a coffee shop in peace. That’s not an emergency at a Philadelphia Starbucks for 911. People of color should be able to knock on doors and to hand out campaign lit in peace. That’s not an emergency for 911 in Oregon or here in Brooklyn. Oregon lawmaker Janelle Bynum’s knocking on doors in July and my handing out literature at this subway stop last week were not emergencies,” said Hamilton.

“These 911 calls are more than frivolous. These 911 calls amount to more than just a waste of police time and resources. These 911 calls are acts of intimidation,” he added.

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