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New Oregon Bill Would Allow Black People to Sue Folks Who Make Frivolous 911 Calls with Racist Intent

Oregon lawmakers approved a bill Monday aimed a preventing on r*acially-motivated calls to p*olice.

The bill, which would allow v*ictims to s*ue if they’ve had the p*olice called on them for disc*riminatory reasons,

received overwhelming approval from the state Senate, passing on a 27-to-1 vote June 4, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported. The House passed the legislation back in April.

Rep. Janelle Bynum (D-Clackamas), one of the bill’s chief sponsors, said the measure is meant to “shine a spotlight on an issue African-Americans have known for far too long.”

“When you get the c*ops called on you just for existing out in public, it sends a clear message: You don’t belong,” Bynum told the outlet via email. “We’ve seen story after story where African–Americans around the country have been targeted and had their rights v*iolated.”

The Associated Press reported that the bill is a joint measure by Bynum, the state House’s sole Black representative, and two other Black lawmakers. The legislation comes in response to string a publicized i*ncidents where white people dialed p*olice on Black folks for largely innocuous reasons, including barbecuing in the park and waiting for a friend at Starbucks.

While the bill doesn’t create c*riminal ch*arges, it opens a pathway for people to s*ue the caller for up to $250 in damages, OPB reported. V*ictims must also be able to prove the caller had r*acist intent,

and that the p*olice were called in an effort to purposefully disc*riminate.

Bynum drafted the legislation after she found herself on the receiving end of such a call. The lawmaker was out canvassing door-to-door in her bid for re-election last July when a woman reported her to p*olice, saying Bynum looked “suspicious.”

“It was just b*izarre,” she told The Oregonian at the time. “It boils down to people not knowing their neighbors and people having a sense of fear in their neighborhoods, which is kind of my job to help eradicate. [But] at the end of the day, it is important for people to feel like they can talk to each other to help minimize misunderstandings.”

Bynum managed to get an apology from the woman but realized there was no system in place to hold frivolous callers accountable.

“This creates a legal pathway to justice for those of us who have to worry about getting the cops called on us for existing in public,” she said. ” I believe this bill … will hopefully lead people to think carefully before calling the p*olice.”

Leaders in Grand Rapids, Michigan, voted on a proposed “bias c*rime reporting prohibition” measure in May that would make it a c*riminal misdemeanor to r*acially profile Blacks and other r*acial minorities by calling the p*olice.

“Imagine what it felt like when the p*olice rolled up on her,” Manning of the i*ncident involving Bynum. “How that could have turned horribly wrong. We see it every day. … It’s unfortunate we even have to have a bill like this, but this is where we are at.”

Republican Sen. Alan Olsen was the only one to vote against the measure on Monday, arguing it could have a chilling effect on Neighborhood Watch programs and deter people from calling the p*olice.

“It concerns me when we pass legislation that would stifle this group of folks protecting their neighborhood,” Olsen said.

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