Cross burning was a Scottish practice that was first embraced by guerrilla groups like Ku Klux Khan. It was supposed to frighten or intimidate the new freed slaves. This was also a way to assert the group’s dominance. The tradition was commended in a 1915 film about the birth of a country. Khan was portrayed as superior. It was used by Khan when the party came to power during its protests in the 1920s. The main purpose of the burning of the cross was to intimidate those who wished to support blacks’ economic and political life. It has been over a century since the activists for human rights fought against the burning of the cross. The practice is still done up to date to some areas of America like Georgia.
Cross burning is a hate speech stipulated in the first amendment to the united states constitution. Under this amendment, hate speech is protected unless the speaker intended to threaten or provoke him or her(Huhn,2013). According to Justice Porter Stewart, what may look funny to somebody maybe a provocation to another person, so it is not easy to define hate speech. He also added that some words and symbols show hatred or even incitement to violence.
The Case of R.A.V. v city of Saint Paul (1992) Virginia and Black (2003).
The defendant R.A.V. burned a cross in front of the fence of a black man. He denied this charge is arguing that it was difficult to establish whether if it was a threat or a political statement. According to the laws of the United States, under the standard first amendment, a person may be found guilty if he or she commits an act meant to create violence to one another or utter threat directly. Therefore, the defendant was not able to act within first amendment rights when he had burned the cross the neighbor’s property. All other juries agreed that it was unconstitutional for the city of Paul to prosecute the defendant or any other ordinance. On application, the R.A.V is to be pursued and charged the law accordingly, but it was unconstitutional.
However, a law may be reconstituted on its face. Under the constitutional law, the defendant was interfering with the rights of others, and he was also violating the constitutional rights of other people. But even so, the government must come up with constitutional law in the long run, on its own terms. The reason behind this is that rules must be strictly followed to unprotected speech so that free expression and discourse in politics is not discouraged. The defendant was set free to avoid the citizens of the city of Paul from the further open discussion that was overboard.
Virgin and Black (2003).
The case occurred on two separate accounts. It was between Barry Black and the leader of Klan in Virginia who burned a cross at a rally at Klan in a field belonging to a private individual who was in sympathy with the views of Klan and who also attended the rally. On the other unrelated case, Richard Elliott and Jonathan Omari burned a cross on a black neighbor’s property despite being of not of Klan.
This is due to the fact that the friend had complained to Elliot’s mother about the shooting guns for target practice in their backyard. The three men were prosecuted under the following law that states that it is unlawful for any person or persons, with the intentions of intimidating or diminishing any individual or group of individuals, by either to burn, or to be burned, a cross on the property of another, or in a public place. Any person who shall violate or go against this law or any provision of this section is to be found guilty of a felony case under class 6.”
Therefore, any burning of the cross is a prima facie evidence of intimidating a person or group of individuals. The Law is clear being that any case of burning of a cross is a view of infringing the law and one is to be convicted on the federal court and face charges of a felony charge of class 6.
The federal department argued that Black was within his rights to burn the cross as a political statement so far, he was not trying to intimidate a person or threaten any person. It was therefore unconstitutional as it was applied to him. Elliot and O’Mara had to challenge the law on its face like R.A.V. According to the law they were communicating a threat to the offended party. Apparently, the three of them were prosecuted under this law and later appealed to the United states courts supreme courts. However, the government must come up with a clear description of when is a person creating violence to people.
Rusty Ivan London IV vs. Timothy Stafford.
Rusty was 21 years old while Stafford was 41 years old. Ivan builds a wooden cross behind the house of Stafford. One month later, they put a wooden cross in Stafford truck and brought it to the town of Minor hill Tinnenese, a driveway that belonged to a new family composed of a white woman, a black man, and their daughter. One morning, Stafford and London burned the cross in front of the couple’s house and then drove away. These accusations were laid upon in a federal court in Nashville to Timothy and London against criminal charges Both of them were caught and were charged with federal hate crime. They appealed arguing that they targeted the couples because they did not want interracial dating in the community. (Kirchner,2014)
In this 21st-century cross burning is a reality in America and is meant to create fear to black Americans as illustrated by Florida state crime. A cross burning was set in front of a white woman and a black man living in Port Richey, Florida on Halloween,2012. It was established that the man had received death threats, and sometimes called “nigga” as documented. The burning of the cross was meant to create them fear and move from their neighborhood. The Justice department argued that the act was intended to create violent act amongst the couples. Three suspects were arrested and pleaded guilty to federal charges to inflict fear and interfere with the couple’s interracial housing rights.
The case became complicated when one of the witnesses died on June 2015. (Morlin,2017). Those accused were William. A. Dennis of Port Cherry. Other conspirators were Thomas H. Sigler, III,45 and Pascual Carlos Pietri both also pleaded guilty. Pietri was convicted for 37 years, and he is currently serving a sentence. Dennis and Sigler are still waiting for the court to determine their case. In the ruling, the federal justice department argued that the act committed by the suspects violated the rights of the couple. The actions threatened and intimidated the couples in their own neighborhood. The federal judge said that the acts demoralizes human rights and should never be allowed in our communities.
In conclusion, the burning of the cross is passed by time. Earlier it had the significance of scaring away the slaves so that they would not achieve political and economic success. The act is still done currently in several parts of United States of America and meant to discriminate racially black Americans. Those found guilty have been prosecuted, and according to me, heavy punishments should be placed on those found guilty.
Burek, J. (2012). What are the origins of cross burning? The Christian science monitor.
Huhh, Wilson. (2013). Cross burning as hate speech under the first amendment to the united states constitution.
Kirchner, L. (2014) Cross burning is more common than you think. Published by Pacific Standard.
Morlin, B. (2017). Cross-burnings still ‘a tool of fear ’used by racists. Southern Poverty Law Center.