On July 28, protesters from across the South and the country marched on the Duval County Courthouse in Jacksonville, Fla., where Marissa Alexander is due to go on trial on Dec. 8th.
Despite the state’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law, Alexander is facing 60 years in prison for having fired a warning shot in 2012 to stop her abusive ex-husband from attacking her. The bullet fired by Alexander, a Black working-class mother, hit no one and caused no injury. Nonetheless, she was arrested, jailed and convicted — until a mass movement forced her conviction to be thrown out in late 2013.
The state’s prosecutor, Angela Corey, decided to retry the case and has repeatedly slandered Alexander to the mass media and even in the state’s legislature. While the state’s persecution of Alexander continues, the movement to win her freedom has not gone away.
Monday’s action followed a weekend of workshops, planning sessions and other activities aimed at her release. Various women of color organizations across the South have led the way in this national effort, including Free Marissa Now, Sister Song, and the National Congress of Black Women.
Early Monday morning, activists and community members of all ages met at the Crowne Plaza on the south bank of the St. Johns River. They marched over the Main St. Bridge, shouting chants like “Up up with liberation, down down with incarceration!” and “Hey hey! Ho ho! Angela Corey’s got to go!”
Many groups from Georgia and Florida joined the march, including Alternate Roots in Atlanta, Power U Center in Miami and Coalition of Immokalee Workers.
“I’m here to make sure she gets her right to be a parent,” said Ruth Jeannoel of Power U Center. “That right was taken away from her way too early with her baby and her children. She cannot be facing years in prison for trying to defend herself.”
When Marissa’s supporters reached the Duval County Courthouse, their songs of hope and struggle echoed around the imposing building. The police forced them to stop using bullhorns and surrounded the throng of people in caution tape during a press conference. In the field outside the courthouse, supporters linked arms in a large circle of solidarity to listen to speeches by Free Marissa Now, Sister Song, WORD, Coalition Against Domestic Violence and others.
“We’re out here because we recognize that we live in an America that absolutely will not protect Black women,” Cherisse Scott of Sister Reach told Liberation, “that we live in an America that absolutely will not make sure we have access to reproductive and sexual health education, that we have access to contraception, and that we are free from violence.”
Women leaders spoke out about how the injustice happening to Marissa is part of a broader system that criminalizes the Black community, disempowers women and mothers, and holds down youth and poor people. Pointing at the courthouse, they demanded State Attorney Angela Corey drop the charges against Marissa and step down.
“We’re here today to fight the system that tells us repeatedly that Black lives do not have value, that Black women cannot defend themselves, that Black women and Black children and men were never meant to survive,” insisted Peta Lindsay of WORD.
“We came out here today,” continued Peta, “to stand for Marissa Alexander, just like we stood for Trayvon Martin, stood for Eric Gartner, stand for our brothers and sisters in Palestine that are also fighting a racist system. We know that we have to had fight and orgnize for every right we’ve won in this country, every right and every consideration, any respect from the law. It was never handed to us. So we have to stay organized and stay in the streets.”
Afterwards, the march left to hold a People’s Tribunal at the Mayor’s office and other wrap-up activities to ensure that the campaign continues to move forward in the weeks and months ahead.
Bryan Ellis contributed to this report.