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This New York Politician Says Making Racist 911 Calls Should Be a Hate Crime

Jesse Hamilton announced a new bill after a woman called the cops on him for campaigning in his own neighborhood.
Jesse Hamilton last year. Photo by Andy Katz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty

Earlier this month, New York State Senator Jesse Hamilton, a Democrat from Brooklyn, was campaigning in Crown Heights when he was confronted by a white woman after handing her a flier. According to the Washington Post, the woman claimed that not all immigrants worked hard and said she supported Donald Trump, and eventually told Hamilton and his aides to leave. When they didn't (it was a public street, after all) she called the police.


The cops didn't do anything to Hamilton, but the incident was yet another case of a white person calling 911 on a black person for doing nothing, a.k.a. "living while black." In the last few months, the police have been called on a 22-year-old trying to buy candy, a student eating lunch, a woman using her own pool, and an 11-year-old delivering newspapers. This phenomenon isn't new, of course, but thanks to social media these kinds of cases are finally being documented and circulated widely; perpetrators have become infamous and earned nicknames like BBQ Becky and #PermitPatty.

In response to this, Hamilton last week announced a bill to curb racist 911 calls at a press conference located on the spot where he encountered the woman, reported HuffPost. "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," Hamilton said.

It's already a crime to make a false 911 reports, but according to CNN, the bill would require the local district attorney to investigate racially motivated calls as hate crimes. Racist callers could be slapped with fines, sensitivity training, or jail time.

The 911 call and its aftermath has given Hamilton a sudden measure of national fame, but locally he has a shaky reputation among many progressives because of his membership in the Independent Democratic Conference, a group of Democratic state lawmakers who caucused with Republicans, giving the GOP control of the state senate. The IDC has since disbanded after widespread critcism, but Hamilton is still facing a tough challenge in the primary on September 13.

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