On May 3, around thirty people gathered outside of the Queens County Criminal Court in New York City to show support for Prakash Churaman ahead of his latest trial. The Free Prakash Alliance and the Party for Socialism and Liberation organized the rally to show solidarity with Churaman, and also to demand that Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz drop all charges against him.
Churaman was only 15 years old when he was arrested and coerced by police officers into a false confession for the shooting of his friend Taquane Clark, despite no evidence linking him to the murder. He was then detained at Rikers Island for six years awaiting a fair trial.
Uncompromisingly maintaining his innocence throughout, he has rejected two plea deals that would have drastically reduced his sentence. Finally released on bail last January, Churaman, now 21, is entering a new trial in which his life and freedom hang in the balance.
Black and brown youth victims of the capitalist system
Speakers at the rally compared Churaman’s case to other cases of poor Black and brown youth that had been sacrificed to the state’s prison industrial complex. Mo Glover, a New York City activist, compared Prakash’s case to that of Chanel Lewis, who was wrongfully convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.
“Chanel Lewis’s case is very similar to Prakash’s–except one thing,” began Glover. “Chanel Lewis was a 20-year-old young man with a disability. He was taken advantage of. His confession was coerced, and he, just like Prakash, was under [former Queens Homicide Bureau Chief] Brad Leventhal’s watch, who has 80 cases right now that are in question. I ask that we…help in the war against poverty, the war against people of color…Make sure that our youth are safe and that they are not in fear of being out in public and then picked up and accused of crimes they did not commit.”
Shaniqua Pippen, whose brother Ronald Williams is currently serving a 100-year sentence for a murder he did not commit, linked the struggle against mass incarceration to the wider struggle against capitalism.
“Some people claim mass incarceration is a new Jim Crow, but it’s more than that,” explained Pippen. “In order to truly understand the function of the prison industrial complex, we must link it to the overall political economy of the country. White supremacy and racism do not exist in a vacuum. They exist because of the economic structure set up by the ruling class in this country–capitalism. Without capitalism, there’s no place for racism and white supremacy to thrive. Without capitalism, there’s no place for crooked DAs, wrongful convictions, and coerced confessions to thrive. Mass incarceration is a political and state response to the surplus population and poverty issues created by capitalism.”
Churaman to DA Melinda Katz: Drop all charges! Free them all!
As Churaman walked up the steps of the courthouse, he expressed gratitude to his supporters and renewed his commitment to proving his innocence.
“As everyone knows here, the system has done me wrong,” Churaman asserted. “But I can no longer stand here and dwell on the past before I focus on the present and the future. I want everyone to know here that I am innocent, and I will prove my innocence. And I want each and every single one of you to stick here by my side to fight these people…The system has done so many people wrong, but brothers are staying silent. I refuse to stay silent! I refuse to bow down to the system. I want everyone here to continue applying pressure on Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz and demand that she permanently drop all charges! Free them all!”
After Churaman turned around and headed into the courthouse for his trial, supporters marched across the street toward Katz’s office for a concluding rally. There, they reiterated their demands to drop all charges against Churaman, and to free all those currently ensnared within the capitalist state’s criminal justice system.
Ways you can get involved in the fight to free Prakash Churaman:
- Call or email Queens DA Melinda Katz to demand she drop all charges against Prakash at (718) 286-6315 or [email protected]
- Donate to Prakash’s GoFundMe, which is used to sustain stable housing for him and his family during his trial, as well as legal fees
- Sign the petition demanding that all charges against Prakash be dropped
Follow the Free Prakash Alliance on Instagram