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House passes measure making lynching a federal crime

Todd Ruger, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- Congress by the end of the week will send President Donald Trump a bill to make lynching a federal crime for the first time, a long overdue recognition of the country's history of the hateful acts, the sponsors of the legislation said Wednesday.

The House on Wednesday passed, 410-4, a version of the legislation, introduced by Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris of California and passed on a voice vote in the Senate a year ago. The House bill is identical except the title: "Emmett Till Antilynching Act."

Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters it is "extraordinarily important" to keep Till's name in the title of the House bill as introduced by Rep. Bobby L. Rush, D-Ill.

Till, a 14-year-old African American boy from Chicago, was brutally murdered during a trip to Mississippi to visit family in 1955. Rush said Till's killing was a catalyst that brought the issue to the consciousness of the nation.

At a news conference, Rush recalled when his mother showed him the photo of Till in Jet Magazine and told him and his siblings that it was the sort of danger that led her to move to Chicago from the South.

But keeping Till's name in the bill's title means the Senate has to pass the bill again before it can go to Trump. Rush said key senators assured that would be done this week, before the end of Black History Month.

 

When asked if Trump would sign it, as House sponsors said he would, Democratic Rep. Karen Bass of California, the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, replied: "How could he not?"

Bass added that a marker to honor Till is constantly vandalized to this day, to the point that authorities finally put up cameras to protect it.

Congress had more than 200 opportunities to pass anti-lynching legislation but never did, and finally this week lawmakers can send a message against the "American evil" of lynching, Rush said.

"We regrettably cannot guarantee it will never occur again, especially in the climate we're in," Rush said.

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