A Maine woman is facing felony lynching charges for trying to help a pro-immigration protester in Murrieta, California in July, The Bangor Daily News reports.
Janet Mathieson told The Daily News that she traveled with a group to Murrieta after seeing how the busloads of detained Central American immigrants were being treated by anti-immigration protesters. “Even though the majority of the people on the bus could not speak English, they can understand hate,” she said. “The harassment and the people banging on the buses was terrifying.”
Once she was there, she said, the group she was with became involved in an altercation with anti-immigration advocates. Because some in her group openly identified as queer, they were being berated with homophobic insults, and at one point, one of the members of her group was shoved to the ground.
Mathieson went to assist her. “I went to see if she was OK, because she was surrounded by the white supremacists,” she told The Daily News. “That’s when a police officer came and asked me what happened. Then the police came after me, even though I had no involvement in what had happened. Then the police started grabbing my body.”
When the officers released her, she and five of her cohorts linked arms and began walking away while repeating, “We are leaving. We are leaving.”
But police contend that Mathieson “jumped on the officers [sic] back while the officer was arresting” one of her fellow protesters, and they arrested all five and charged each of them with one count of felony lynching and obstructing a police officer.
Mathieson said she was “really confused” by the lynching charge, as it is more commonly used to describe the unlawful hanging of African-Americans in the South. But according to the California Penal Code, “any use of force or violence, disturbing the public peace, or any threat to use force or violence, if accompanied by immediate power of execution, by two or more persons acting together…is a riot,” and “the taking by means of a riot of any person from the lawful custody of any peace officer is a lynching.”
An arraignment hearing for Mathieson is scheduled for September 3, 2014.