Jacksonville, FL - On Sept. 26, a Florida appeals court ordered a new trial for Marissa Alexander, the African American mother given a 20-year prison sentence for firing a warning shot to fend off her abusive husband. The announcement comes after more than a year of protests across the country that raised the demand, “Free Marissa now!”
Speaking about the movement to get justice for Alexander, Octavia Littlejohn, an organizer with the New Jim Crow Movement and the Southern Movement Assembly in Jacksonville, stated, “I truly believe it helped Marissa's case...I pray she gets her freedom soon and very soon.”
Alexander, 32, discharged her licensed firearm when her husband attacked her at home just a week after giving birth to her daughter. The jury ignored her claim to self-defense against domestic abuse and found her guilty after deliberating for only 12 minutes. Under Florida's racist mandatory minimum laws, Alexander was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Alexander's case drew national attention in the wake of the not guilty verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman, the white vigilante who murdered Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African American. After shooting Martin, Zimmerman was not arrested by police and a nearly all white jury found him not guilty of second-degree murder, sparking nationwide protests. Many protesters contrasted Alexander and Zimmerman's treatment by the legal system to highlight the racist nature of the criminal injustice system.
State Attorney Angela Corey, who was widely criticized for her lackluster prosecution of Zimmerman, prosecuted Alexander and sought the maximum 20-year sentence for her conviction. Several progressive and civil rights groups in Jacksonville have demanded that she resign for targeting Alexander and disproportionately prosecuting African American youth.
Protests in Jacksonville by the Southern Movement Assembly, the New Jim Crow Movement, Florida New Majority and others helped bring attention to Alexander's case. Shortly after the Zimmerman verdict, more than 500 people in Jacksonville marched to the Duval County jail, where Alexander was held, and demanded her release.
In late July, protesters with the Southern Movement Assembly walked 126 miles from Jacksonville to Sanford to demand the release of Alexander and the resignation of Angela Corey.
Littlejohn, one of those who participated in the 'Walk for Dignity' to Sanford, states, "We stood for what we believe in, and we didn't let anybody or anyone - not even Angela Corey - defeat us or scare us away. I feel we got what we wanted and justice will be served for her."
Groups in Jacksonville and across the country plan to ramp up the pressure to free Alexander as she faces her new trial.
Reflecting on this people's victory, Littlejohn added, "Marissa will be very pleased in our hard work and dedication. Our voices were heard. We overcame all obstacles, even if it meant for me being in the media and speaking on the truth, not giving a damn what the jurisdiction said about her. We fought for her freedom and her rights."