On Wednesday, New York State Senator Jesse Hamilton announced his proposal for 911 Anti-Discrimination legislation. The law would combat the many recent instances of false emergency reports made against citizens for essentially "living while Black."
These reports include an April incident in which a woman, since dubbed "Barbecue Becky" called Oakland, CA police on group of Black men picnicking in a public park, an incident in May in which campus police at Yale University were called on a Black graduate student who was napping in a common room, and a June incident in which a women called the police to report that a Black 8-year-old girl was selling water without a permit.
On August 9, Sen. Hamilton himself had a similar experience while speaking with constituents in Brooklyn. According to a press release from the Senator's office , a woman "... accused Senator Hamilton of supporting immigrants excessively. She objected to the senator speaking to constituents and called 911. Officers from the 71st Precinct arrived and determined that public assembly and free speech are not against the law."
In the release, Hamilton's office notes that the senator's experience is part of another trend they are calling "campaigning while Black." In July, Portland, Oregon State Representative Janelle Bynum was knocking on doors canvassing in her district when police officers pulled up and told her that someone had made a 911 call to report that her behavior was suspicious.
Raul Rothblatt, Hamilton's Director of Community Affairs, speaking to Refinery29 by phone was quick to point out that in most of these instances the police response to these calls was "very professional." He explained that the law would save police officers' time and that these calls "used as an act of intimidation" diverted law enforcement resources from other, potentially dangerous situations.
If passed, the law would add false reporting statutes to the list of hate crimes in New York State law.
In a press conference held to announce the bill, Hamilton stated, "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. Living while Black is not a crime, but making a false report – especially motivated by hate – should be."