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Jacksonville protesters rally at courthouse for Marissa Alexander re-trial hearing

By Dave Schneider |
October 31, 2013
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Marissa Alexander press conference at Duval County Courthouse.
Marissa Alexander press conference at Duval County Courthouse. (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Jacksonville, FL - Protesters from across Florida gathered in front of the Duval County Courthouse on October 31 for the first status hearing in the retrial of Marissa Alexander, the 33 year old African American mother who fired a warning shot to fend off her abusive husband.

The status hearing lasted just a few minutes as Judge James Daniel set November 8 as the date of Alexander's bail hearing.

Although protesters tried to enter the courtroom to show support for Alexander, Jacksonville police locked them out. The group of protesters regrouped outside for a press conference, where they discussed future plans to win freedom for Alexander.

Alexander's case drew national attention after the murder of Trayvon Martin and the not-guilty verdict in the trial of racist vigilante George Zimmerman, Martin's killer. Prosecuted under Florida's mandatory minimum sentencing laws, Alexander received a 20-year prison sentence for aggravated assault in 2012 despite only firing a shot in the air to defend herself from a domestic abuser. Zimmerman, on the other hand, received a not guilty verdict after murdering Martin, an African American youth. Protesters contrasted the cases to show the racist and sexist nature of the criminal injustice system.

The Zimmerman verdict brought new attention to Alexander's case, launching nationwide protests demanding her release. The Southern Movement Assembly led a 126-mile walk from Jacksonville to Sanford in August demanding Alexander's freedom and the resignation of State Attorney Angela Corey, who prosecuted her case. On September 26, 2013, a Florida appeals court ordered a new trial for Alexander.

Over 30 people attended the press conference afterwards, bringing together members of the Southern Movement Assembly, the New Jim Crow Movement, Sisterhood of Survivors from the Miami Workers Center, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, Dream Defenders, the Jacksonville Progressive Coalition, the New Black Panther Party, and Florida New Majority.

Speakers focused on domestic violence, the racist criminal justice system, the school-to-prison pipeline, and Florida's mandatory minimum sentencing laws, which disproportionately affect African Americans and other oppressed nationalities.

Shay Brown talked about domestic violence and pointed out that the state of Florida does not take the safety of women seriously. As a domestic violence survivor and victims' advocate, she pointed out that women and abuse survivors everywhere have an interest in seeing Alexander freed.
Other speakers denounced the racist criminal injustice system for incarcerating Alexander in the first place.

"They had the white robes of the KKK in the 60s," said Minister Richard Burton of the Epiphany Baptist Church in Jacksonville. "And they have the black and blue robes inside the Duval County Courthouse today."

Florida State Senator Dwight Bullard sent a staff member to read a letter expressing his support for Alexander and demanding her freedom. "I urge you to drop the charges on Marissa Alexander," read Bullard's letter, "and I urge you to drop the new trial."

At the end of the press conference, chants broke out of "Free Marissa Now!" and "What do we want? Freedom for Marissa! When do we want it? Now!"

Protesters plan to rally at the courthouse for the November 8 bail hearing at 2:00pm and demand, "Free Marissa Now!"