If there is any good that can come out of the tragedy of Trayvon Martin’s death and the miscarriage of justice in George Zimmerman’s acquittal, it’s the raised awareness about other injustices. On Friday, speaking at the National Urban League convention in Philadelphia Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, said: “My message to you is: Please use my story, please use my tragedy, please use my broken heart to say to yourself, we cannot let this happen to anybody else’s child.” Fulton was urging people to organize against racial profiling and gun laws and Stand Your Ground, a law that exists in over 20 states, that gives people the right to use deadly force with no duty to retreat. Most states allow this in the home but Stand Your Ground gives people this “freedom” outside the house. And though Zimmerman didn’t seek to use Stand Your Ground to get his case dismissed (most likely because his legal team feared putting him on the stand where he’d face cross-examination), the principle influenced the case and the jury instruction.
In addition to increased calls to repeal Stand Your Ground, Martin’s case has highlighted other cases of injustice and double standards. A prime example of this is Marissa Alexander, an 32-year-old African-American mother of three, who was sentenced to 20 years in jail for shooting at a wall to scare off her abusive husband. No one was killed. No one was even hurt. Alexander’s husband, whom she had a restraining order, admitted to abusing Marissa, as well as “put[ting] [his] hands” on all his “baby mamas.” Alexander attempted to use the Stand Your Ground law. But unbelievably, a jury took 12 minutes of deliberating to sentence Alexander to 20 years. (This, sadly, isn’t unbelievable, given the racist application of Stand Your Ground.)
On Friday, The consistently amazing Amy Goodman did a feature story on her consistently amazing show Democracy Now! on Alexander’s case. Goodman interviewed Aleta Alston-Toure, who organized the “Walk for Dignity,” which started off in Jacksonville, where Alexander was convicted, and ended at a memorial for Trayvon Martin in Sanford, where Zimmerman killed the unarmed 17-year-old. Alston-Toure is part of the New Jim Crow Movement. As I googled around for information on this organization (which is part of the Southern Freedom Movement/Project South) I came across a tumblr called freemarissanow. And it had some great ways you can take action to demand justice for Alexander.
Donate to Marissa’s legal defense fund at www.justice4marissa.com
Write to Marissa and tell her you support her! Her faith is still strong and she would gladly receive your genuine support. You can send your card or letter to: Marissa Alexander #J46944, Lowell Annex, 11120 NW Gainesville, Rd, Ocala, FL34482. You are welcome to download and mail this sample note card! More details about sending mail can be found here: http://freemarissanow.tumblr.com/letters
Take action against mass incarceration and domestic violence! Organize discussions and workshops about domestic and sexual violence, explore community strategies for safety and support, resist the criminalization of our communities.
Urge your campus, organization, union, faith community, collective, or business to endorse the call to Free Marissa Alexander. Endorse here or e-mail us know at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can add them to the growing list of supporters.
Spread the word with friends, families, communities, co-workers, and via social media. Take direct action! Organize a march and rally, a speak out, a flash mob dance party, a concert, a block party, or a fundraiser. Use media! Create zines, short videos, postcards, music, and poetry.
Write letters to the editor to your local news media. Blog, tweet, and spread the word on social media. #freemarissanow
Join us! We’re holding bimonthly conference calls to build an international mobilization to Free Marissa. For more information, e-mail us at email@example.com.
Let us know what you’re up to! Stay in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook.com/freemarissanow, and freemarissnow.tumblr.com.
You can also download the take action link to hand out or e-mail as a flyer here.
Check out the video and transcript of the Democracy Now! interview after the jump.
AMY GOODMAN: We go to Florida, where calls are growing for the the release of Marissa Alexander, the African-American mother of three who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing what she maintains was a warning shot at her abusive husband. Alexander was prosecuted by Angela Corey, who also oversaw the case against George Zimmerman. Alexander insisted she was defending herself when she fired a shot into a wall near her husband, and attempted to use Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law in her defense. But in March 2012 the jury convicted her after only 12 minutes of deliberation. A coalition of Southern community organizations are on a “Walk for Dignity” in Florida from Jacksonville — where Alexander was convicted — toward Sanford, where a memorial for Trayvon Martin is planned on Saturday. We speak with one of the march’s coordinators, Aleta Alston-Toure, who has visited Alexander in jail and is also calling for Corey to resign.
We turn to the growing protests around another Florida shooting case, which had a different outcome from the case of George Zimmerman. It’s Marissa Alexander, 31 years old, African-American mother of three, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing what she maintains was a warning shot at her abusive husband. Alexander had turned down a plea bargain that would have seen her jailed for three years. She insisted she had been defending herself when she fired a shot into a wall near her husband, and she attempted to use Florida’s Stand Your Ground law in her defense. But in March 2012, the jury convicted her, after only 12 minutes of deliberation. She was sentenced to 20 years behind bars under a Florida law known as “10-20-Life” that carries a mandatory minimum for certain gun crimes regardless of the circumstance. The case against her was argued by Angela Corey, the same prosecutor in charge of the case against George Zimmerman.
Well, to protest her imprisonment, as well as the acquittal of George Zimmerman, a coalition of Southern community organizations has been marching in a, quote, “Walk for Dignity.” They began Monday in Jacksonville, Florida, where Alexander was convicted, and have been walking since then to Sanford, Florida, where Trayvon Martin was killed.
We’re joined now by one of the march coordinators, Aleta Alston-Toure, founder of the New Jim Crow Movement in Jacksonville, Florida. She’s been organizing on behalf of Marissa Alexander. She visited her in jail, has written to her extensively. She’s joining us by Democracy Now! video stream from Dickerson Community Center in Daytona Beach, Florida, where their march is now.
It’s great to have you with us. Explain this case, why it means so much to you, the case of Marissa Alexander, Aleta.
ALETA ALSTON-TOURE: Well, the case means so much to me because this is truly—Zimmerman got away with murder. And we’re trying to say, through the Walk for Dignity, that the shift now is from a legal crisis to a human crisis. And that’s because the decades of the prison crisis is now out of hand. It’s totally out of hand. We looked in the past at those that said, “I am a man,” and now we’re saying, “I am human.” We are trying to right now just make a statement that we’re taking action. We’re taking action by walking together as organizations, as youth, to do something together to change those things. And the two demands that we have is the resignation of Angela Corey, clearly, because she is profiting. Her career is to lock people up. She is a politician. And we clearly are saying also that we want to have the release of Marissa Alexander. And enough is enough.
AMY GOODMAN: Quotes—Aleta, the quotes are astounding. Angela Corey complained to The Washington Post of the online agitation like yours to free Marissa Alexander, saying, “I think social media is going to be the destruction of this country.” So, let me read from The Daily Beast, which says, “No, it’s not Alexander’s abusive husband Rico Gray—who said in his deposition, ‘I got five baby mammas, and I [hit] every last one of them except for one’—that makes Corey see red. What really fries her bacon,” this is The Daily Beast, “is the idea that anyone questions her overzealous prosecution of a battered woman acting in self-defense.” Could you respond to this, Seema Iyer? You’re an attorney. [read the rest of the transcript here]