Monday, November 24, 2014
Upon News of Plea Deal, Activists Vow to Organize Until Marissa Alexander is Free
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Today, Marissa Alexander has chosen to accept a plea deal with the State of Florida. The plea deal includes time served (1,030 days), an additional 65 days in Duval County Jail which will begin today, and two years of probation while wearing a surveillance monitor. Marissa Alexander is a black mother of three from Jacksonville, Florida who, nine days after prematurely giving birth, was forced to defend her life from a brutal life-threatening attack by her estranged husband, and subsequently prosecuted by State Prosecutor Angela Corey. Alexander, her legal team, and thousands of supporters were preparing for a likely difficult trial to begin this December. If found guilty, she would have faced a mandatory 60 year sentence.
The Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign supports Marissa Alexander’s self-determination to make the best choices she can while navigating the violent and impossible circumstances created by her abusive husband, Angela Corey, and Florida’s judicial system. “The plea deal is a relief in some ways, but this is far from a victory,” said Alisa Bierria, from the Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign. “The deal will help Marissa and her family avoid yet another very expensive and emotionally exhausting trial that could have led to the devastating ruling of spending the rest of her life in prison. Marissa’s children, family, and community need her to be free as soon as possible. However, the absurdity in Marissa’s case was always the fact that the courts punished and criminalized her for surviving domestic violence, for saving her own life. The mandatory minimum sentences of 20 years, and then 60 years, just made the state’s prosecution increasingly shocking. But we have always believed that forcing Marissa to serve even one day in prison represents a profound and systemic attack on black women’s right to exist and all women’s right to self-defense.”
In 2010, Alexander fired a single warning shot that caused no injuries while defending herself from an attack by her abusive husband who strangled her and threatened to kill her. In 2012, she attempted to invoke Florida’s Stand Your Ground immunity, but was denied and sent to trial where she was found guilty and sentenced to a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison. Supported by an international grassroots movement, Alexander successfully appealed the verdict in September 2013, but Corey filed charges again, this time announcing that she would pursue a mandatory 60 year sentence for Alexander. On November 27, 2013, almost exactly a year ago and after serving nearly three years in prison, Alexander was released and put under very strict house detention while she prepared for her retrial.
The campaign vows to keep organizing for Alexander’s freedom and raising awareness about the issues surrounding her case. “It is critical that we keep the momentum of our support and love going until Marissa is restored to her family and community,” said Sumayya Coleman, a Free Marissa Now lead organizer. “In light of Marissa’s decision to not go to trial, we continue to stand in solidarity with her and her family. Marissa has been consistent in her self-advocacy, including defending her life when attacked by her husband, rejecting a punishing three year plea deal offered to her in 2012, and taking the plea offered to her today. As difficult as it is to see Marissa unjustly sent back to jail today, her supporters around the world stand by her. We are standing our ground that women have the right to defend themselves from violence, and that black women’s lives matter.”
Alexander’s case has unfolded in the context of the larger crisis of mass incarceration that disproportionately impacts black women and survivors of domestic and sexual violence. The ACLU estimates that 85-90% of people in women’s prisons have been victims of domestic violence or sexual abuse. For the next 65 days, the campaign urges Alexander’s supporters all over the world to organize rallies and forums that raise awareness about Alexander’s case and the cases of other incarcerated women who face similar circumstances, such as Charmaine Pfender.
Supporters are gathering at the following events this week:
When: Monday, November 24
Time: 6:30 pm
Where: Chicago Police Dept Headquarters, 35th & Michigan
When: Tuesday, November 25
Time: 6:00 pm
Where: Eastside Arts Alliance, 2277 International Blvd
Jacksonville, FL: Supporters are also invited to take action with Free Marissa Now in Jacksonville in December. On December 6 the FMN Jericho Prayer March in Jacksonville, Florida will hold a peaceful march for all victims of violence to figuratively tear down walls of injustice through prayer, words of encouragement, and rallying. Pastor Annie Theresa Bryant Montgomery of Abundant Peace Ministries and event coordinator says, “This March is for Marissa, but also bigger than Marissa. This is a rallying cry for justice for all victims of violence.” On December 8th, the Monument Quilt will be on display in Jacksonville. Supporters of Marissa Alexander are welcome to add a message to the Monument Quilt, details can be found at freemarissanow.org.
“We will not stop organizing until Marissa Alexander is free!” said Aleta Alston Toure, a Free Marissa Now lead organizer based in Jacksonville. “During the next 65 days, we must continue to use the attention we’ve brought to Marissa’s case to highlight the broader ongoing crisis of mass incarceration, police violence, and prosecutorial abuse. There are thousands of Marissa Alexanders still behind bars, still facing devastating prison sentences, and still being threatened in their own homes. We must stay the course, spread the word, and change the system until all of our sisters are free.”
Free Marissa Now will keep Marissa Alexander’s supporters updated about the new address where she can receive mail and next steps for the Marissa Alexander Freedom Fundraiser.
The Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign is an international grassroots campaign led by a core of organizers representing the African American/Black Women’s Cultural Alliance, New Jim Crow Movement – Jacksonville, and INCITE! Women of Color and Trans People of Color Against Violence. For more information, see www.FreeMarissaNow.org.