A week after a self-described supporter of President Donald Trump called the police on a black state senator in New York who was campaigning on the street, the lawmaker has proposed a bill that would make calling 911 on an innocent black person a hate crime.
State Sen. Jesse Hamilton, a Democrat who represents the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Brownsville, Crown Heights and Flatbush, said he’d been speaking with voters in his district earlier this month when an unidentified woman called the cops on him for no apparent reason.
“I support Trump, and I see the difference between Democrat and Republican — and I see the difference between you and Trump,” the woman said in an exchange captured on camera. She then lambasted Hamilton for giving out pamphlets about “fighting back” against Trump.
The lawmaker says the woman then called 911, prompting police to arrive at the scene. The cops “patiently explained to the woman that Hamilton had done nothing illegal,” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported.
Hamilton, who is up for re-election this year, held a press conference about a week later at the same spot where he’d encountered the woman and announced his intention to introduce a bill that would criminalize 911 calls against people of color when there’s zero evidence of any wrongdoing.
“That’s gonna be a hate crime,” Hamilton told The Prospect Heights Patch. “This pattern of calling the police on black people going about their business and participating in the life of our country has to stop.”
Hamilton faces a potentially tough race in New York’s Sept. 13 Democratic primary. He was a member of the Independent Democratic Conference, a small group of lawmakers who during part of its existence helped Republicans maintain control of the state Senate. The group disbanded earlier the year.
His proposed legislation would strengthen laws that prohibit people from making false reports.
The proposal comes on the heels of several reports across the country of people calling the police on people of color engaged in routine activities. Those involved in such incidents included two black men in Philadelphia who were waiting for a friend at a Starbucks and an Oregon state lawmaker who, like Hamilton, had been canvassing in her district.
“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 at his press conference on Wednesday.
“Oregon lawmaker Janelle Bynum’s knocking on doors in July and my handing out literature at this subway stop last week were not emergencies,” he said. “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.”
Hamilton told Patch that under his bill, it would be the responsibility of the victim to report dubious 911 calls.
Hamilton said the legislation is needed to ensure that people who make racially motivated 911 calls are duly penalized.
“Living while black is not a crime. But making a false report, especially motivated by hate, should be. Our laws should recognize that false reports with hateful intent can have deadly consequences,” he told The Daily Eagle.
This story has been updated to note Hamilton’s membership in the Independent Democratic Conference in the state Senate.