Hundreds gathered in Washington, D.C., June 21 for the Free Her Rally, a protest drawing attention to the devastating effects of mass incarceration on women. Dozens of organizations opposed to racism and sexism helped put the rally together, which included sizable out-of-town contingents from as far away as Pittsburgh, Penn.

While many different issues motivated participants, they were united in their demand for justice for incarcerated women. Expressing her desire to fight back, Michelle Johnson told Liberation that she was participating in the rally because, “I’m an African American woman with children, and it’s time.”

Janelle Johnson, an attorney, said she traveled from Pittsburgh so she could “Show support for the women who are in jail … showing that there are people standing behind them” She also voiced her concern for the “children [of incarcerated mothers] who are left behind.”

Many activists and formerly incarcerated people addressed the crowd, while a DJ kept up the energy between speakers.

A contingent from WORD (Women Organized to Resist and Defend) held a banner and distributed placards raising the demand for freedom for Marissa Alexander, who is facing up to 60 years in prison for defending herself from an abuser. Also, a group that came all the way from New Haven, Conn. built consciousness around the struggle to free “Jane Doe,” a 16-year-old transgender Latina girl being held in prison despite not having been charged with any crime.


Karen Garrison, of MommieActivist and Sons Radio Show and Families Against Mandatory Minimums, summed up the action by saying, “Today a whole lot of women are here representing mass incarceration, over incarceration, also to end this war on drugs and to ask the President to give more consideration to women in prison … All of them are connected because it’s injustice. Families are impacted, neighborhoods are impacted.”

The struggle to end mass incarceration is making progress, and the Free Her Rally brought us one step closer to the day when the prison walls fall and the unjustly incarcerated win their freedom.