ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. David Paterson signed legislation last Thursday
that will make it a felony to display a noose as a threat.
The crime would be punishable by up to four years in prison.
“It is sad that in these modern times there remains a need to address the problem of individuals who use nooses as a means of threat and intimidation,” Paterson said in a statement. “But it is a reality, and if we ignore it we would be derelict in our duty.”
Paterson says the legislation still isn’t enough and New York law will need to be strengthened more.
Nooses were found last year on a black professor’s door at Columbia University, outside a post office near ground zero in lower Manhattan and in locations on Long Island.
Nooses have shown up in other high-profile incidents around the country — in a black Coast Guard cadet’s bag, on a Maryland college campus, and in the Jena Six case in Louisiana, where six black teenagers were charged with beating a white student. The incident happened after nooses were hung from a tree on a high school campus there.
New York isn’t the first state to consider making it a crime to threaten with a noose, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Connecticut passed a bill this year making it a misdemeanor unless property is damaged, which would be a felony. At least two other states, Louisiana and Maryland, have considered similar legislation.
In New York, the current crime of aggravated harassment in the first degree applies to conduct committed with intent to harass, annoy, threaten or alarm a victim chosen for reasons of bias.
The conduct already covered includes the display of swastikas on property without the permission of the property owner and also the burning of crosses.
This adds the display of a noose to the existing law.
Calif. installs first black female top legislator in U.S.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California last Tuesday installed the nation’s first black female legislative leader, swearing in Los Angeles Democrat Karen Bass as speaker of the state Assembly.
Bass said that she feels the weight of history on her shoulders.
“If we could only harness the power of our common humanity, I don’t think there’s anything we couldn’t do for the people of this state,” she said.
The 54-year-old becomes the 67th speaker, succeeding fellow Los Angeles Democrat Fabian Nunez. He is relinquishing the post at the end of the year because of term limits.
Bass was a physician’s assistant before being elected to the Assembly in 2004 and is known for writing legislation on child welfare and social justice issues. As speaker, she will hold what is regarded as the second most powerful post in state government behind the governor.
Bass takes over the 80-member house as lawmakers are turning their attention to the state budget. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger released his revised spending plan for the coming fiscal year last Wednesday, forecasting a deficit of $17.2 billion.
Bass will be among leaders looking to broker agreements on the budget and other major policy issues. She will appoint chairs to legislative committees, set staff budgets and largely control what legislation reaches the Assembly floor.
California’s Assembly is the first state legislative body in the nation to be led by a black woman, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In Washington state, Rosa Franklin holds the largely honorary title of Senate president pro tem.
Mandela says S. African leadership award last he’ll accept
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Former South African President Nelson Mandela broke a promise last Tuesday — by accepting an award.
In accepting Pretoria’s “freedom of the city” award, Mandela recalled he had decided several years ago that because “the baton of leadership” has been passed on, others should be getting such honors.
“We acceded to this temptation … because in this 90th year the planet has been cursed with our presences, we thought that we should show some gratitude,” he said with characteristic self-deprecating humor. “We shall from here on certainly not do this again.”
Mandela ended his speech with a plea to current leaders:
“Remember the horror from which we come; never forget the greatness of a nation that could overcome its divisions and bring itself to where it is; and let us never again descend into destructive divisiveness no matter what the considerations are.”
Mandela, who turns 90 in July, accepted the award from South Africa’s capital at his offices in Johannesburg, appearing by video link in the capital, about 50 miles north. He has cut down on public appearances in recent years, and leaned on a cane and the capital’s mayor during a brief appearance before reporters after the ceremony, smiling and greeting familiar faces.
Mayor Gwen Ramakgopa called Mandela “an inspiration for reconciliation in the world.”
Pretoria’s city council voted in 2005 to call most of its city Tshwane, derived from the Ndebele name used by some of the region’s earliest African inhabitants and meaning “we are the same.” The change from Pretoria has been challenged in court, but the proclamation Mandela accepted refers to Tshwane as the host of “the first president of a free, democratic South Africa.”
Established by white settlers in 1855, the capital was named after Andries Pretorius, a leader of the “Great Trek” by Dutch settlers known as Afrikaners into the interior of the country. For many blacks, the name Pretoria symbolized decades of white racist rule. Afrikaners say changing the name is an affront to their history and culture.