Elizabeth Lawrence, a school teacher in Alabama, was lynched in 1933 for reprimanding white schoolchildren for throwing rocks at her.
In 1893, 17-year-old Henry Smith, suspected of killing a white girl, was burned alive before a mob of 10,000 in Texas. His ashes and bones were sold as souvenirs.
Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black youth was abducted, tortured and murdered in 1955.
They are just three of the at least 4,000 lynchings that took place in the United States from the late 1800s to the mid 1900s.
And Tuesday, President Donald Trump tweeted that an impeachment inquiry against him is also a lynching, a metaphor that quickly drew widespread criticism from lawmakers and social justice groups as “grotesque” and “offensive.”
So some day, if a Democrat becomes President and the Republicans win the House, even by a tiny margin, they can impeach the President, without due process or fairness or any legal rights. All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here – a lynching. But we will WIN!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 22, 2019
“All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here – a lynching. But we will WIN!” Trump tweeted.
Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, a Democratic presidential candidate, responded, “Lynching is an act of terror used to uphold white supremacy. Try again.”
“What the hell is wrong with you?” tweeted Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill. “Do you know how many people who look like me have been lynched, since the inception of this country, by people who look like you. Delete this tweet.”
“To compare impeachment – a process grounded in the Constitution – to lynching, is to belittle the devastation, terror, and loss of life that resulted from this horrific practice,” said Jeffery Robinson, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Trone Center for Justice and Equality.
Trump’s impeachment inquiry, a legal process occurring within the confines of the U.S. Constitution, is completely different from the lynchings of black Americans in the 19th and 20th centuries.
According to the Equal Justice Initiative, lynchings were “violent and public acts of torture that traumatized black people throughout the country and were largely tolerated by state and federal officials.”
Between 1877 and 1950, more than 4,384 racial terror lynchings occurred in the United States, according to the Equal Justice Initiative‘s count. Racial terror lynchings are distinguished from mob killings that followed some form of trial or were committed against white people without the threat of terror, the group says.
The NAACP puts the number at 3,446 black people lynched from 1882 to 1968. An additional 1,297 white people were lynched, too, the group says, for helping blacks or being anti-lynching.
Bryan Stevenson, the Equal Justice Initiative’s executive director, told the Montgomery Advertiser in a 2018 interview, that lynching was used as “a tactic of control, of reinforcing white supremacy, of racial hierarchy.”
Lynchings occurred outside of a formal criminal justice system because black Americans were seen as not deserving a trial, Stevenson said.
The violence also occurred with the expectation that those who committed the lynching would not be punished for the act, he added.
“The threat, the menace, to African Americans is very different,” Stevenson said. “This is terrorism. It is not a crime. It’s not murder. It’s terrorism. The difference is the act of violence isn’t directed just at that one person who’s hanging from that tree. It’s the entire black community.”
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley denied that Trump considers himself a lynching victim, saying “he’s not comparing himself to those dark times.” Instead, Gidley said, the president was criticizing his treatment by Democrats and journalists whom he said have called for his impeachment ever since he was elected.
“He is not receiving due process,” Gidley said.
Trump, however, is not alone in calling an impeachment inquiry a lynching, despite the obvious historical inaccuracy of the claim.
“So yeah,” Graham said, “this is a lynching in every sense.”
Former vice president and current Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden apologized Tuesday night after a 1998 clip surfaced of him saying the impeachment of then-President Bill Clinton could be seen as a “partisan lynching.”
Biden’s apology came the same day he said it was “abhorrent” and “despicable” that Trump used the term to refer to the impeachment inquiry.
“Impeachment is not ‘lynching,’ it is part of our Constitution,” he admonished Trump. “Our country has a dark, shameful history with lynching, and to even think about making this comparison is abhorrent. It’s despicable.”
But 20 years ago, Biden used that exact word to refer to the impeachment process against fellow Democrat Clinton.
“Even if the president should be impeached, history is going to question whether or not this was just a partisan lynching or whether or not it was something that in fact met the standard, the very high bar, that was set by the founders as to what constituted an impeachable offense,” Biden said in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.
Other Democrats also used “lynching” when referring to Clinton’s impeachment.
A Washington Post report found at least five House Democrats, three of whom are black, used that word or “lynch mob” to refer to the process against Clinton, including Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., who now chairs the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over impeachment.
Contributing: David Jackson, William Cummings, Jessica Guynn and N’dea Yancey-Bragg, USA TODAY.
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