Pregnant Black Woman Gets Four Years For High Crime Of Hurting Cops' Fee-Fees
Brittany Martin is doing hard time because she yelled at a cop. If that doesn’t seem quite legal, please note that Brittany Martin is Black.
Martin, 34, was sentenced to four years in prison after a South Carolina jury convicted her this spring of breaching the peace in a high and aggravated manner during racial justice protests. Her lawyers are pushing for a reduced sentence because she’s pregnant and due in November. Also, the First Amendment theoretically applies to Black women.
From the AP:
“She’s in jail because she talked in America,” said Sybil Dione Rosado, her trial attorney. “She’s a dark-skinned Black woman who is unapologetically Black and radical.”
That does sound bad!
Martin is a mother of four who moved from Iowa to Sumter, South Carolina, in 2020. When she participated in the summer’s protests, she remembered her brother-in-law, whom Sumter cops fatally shot 19 times in 2016. The police claim he fired a gun at them during a chase. Martin isn’t accused of firing a weapon at the protests, but cops seemed to think shooting off her mouth is just as serious an offense.
The police managed to keep their body cameras on during their encounters with Martin, and in court, prosecutors presented the jury with video that doesn’t show Martin laying a finger on a single cop. Instead, in videos from May 31, 2020, Martin is seen chanting, “No justice, no peace” in an officer’s face. Police were wearing riot gear and discussing using tear gas against the protesters.
Days later, however, Martin used harsher language, which is still language.
"Some of us gon' be hurting. And some of y'all gon' be hurting," Martin told officers. "We ready to die for this. We tired of it. You better be ready to die for the blue. I'm ready to die for the Black.”
We’re constantly reminded how high the legal bar is for charging Donald Trump with inciting an attack against Congress. However, the bar for charging Martin was low enough to trip over. While a jury acquitted her of inciting a riot and reached no verdict on whether she threatened officers’ lives, jurors found her guilty of "breaching the peace.”
What exactly is breaching the peace and why is it probably racist? According to South Carolina law, “dangerous and disorderly persons” or people who utter “menaces or threatening speeches” are guilty of this BS charge, which is punishable by no more than a $500 fine and 30 days in jail.
However, state prosecutors presented the charge as a “high and aggravated crime” worthy of putting a mother of four in prison for up to 10 years. Worse, her attorney Rosado claims that Judge Kirk Griffin didn’t allow her to explain to the jury that this distinction carried the possibility of a draconian penalty.
Former South Carolina Rep. Bakari Sellers called the sentence “beyond the pale,” which is a diplomatic way of saying that it’s far beyond how the criminal justice system treats white people.
“The fact is you have people who stormed the Capitol, who led to the death of law enforcement, who tried to overturn an election and fracture democracy. And they’re getting two months, three months, six months,” Sellers said. “And Brittany Martin gets four years.”
Last week, former New York City cop Thomas Webster was sentenced to 10 years for assaulting a police officer at the January 6 insurrection. You could argue that this was far more than just assault but was actually attempted murder: After whaling on the cop for a while, Webster tried to rip off his face shield and gas mask, causing him to choke. At least he didn’t hurt his feeling while almost beating him to death.
The prosecutors asked for 17 years but the judge cut Webster a break, crediting his 25 years of service with the Marines and the NYPD.
In a court filing, Sellers points to others convicted under the same charge who had their sentences reduced. A more high-profile case involved an intoxicated University of Alabama football fan who punched a University of South Carolina fan unconscious after the Gamecocks upset the Crimson Tide. The man was pronounced dead after a motorist unknowingly drove over his body. The fan got three years in prison, the rest of his 10-year sentence suspended.
While in prison, Martin has lost 12 pounds, despite her pregnancy. (Remember the annoying insurrectionist who thought prison was a yoga retreat/detox spa?) Martin was taken to the hospital twice in an ambulance due to pregnancy complications. She was recently sent to solitary confinement, which is barbaric and inhumane, because she refused to cut her dreads, a violation of a racist policy. Black women aren’t Rapunzel. They can’t use their hair to escape.
Martin’s had past run-ins with the law in Iowa, but they weren’t relevant to the South Carolina case. In 2021, she co-founded Mixed Sistaz United. The local group fed the unhoused, organized voter registration drives, and hosted a Juneteenth celebration.
This January, Martin’s 18-year-old son was shot and killed in his car outside a Waterloo, Iowa, convenience store. Maybe the cop she yelled at is still traumatized, but I think she’s suffered more than enough.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."