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The upcoming elections and struggle in Jacksonville

A comprehensive look at the worst state attorney in the U.S. and how to get rid of her
By Fernando Figueroa |
July 31, 2016
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Jacksonville, FL - There is no U.S. state attorney that has caused more injustice, tried more juveniles as adults, and spat in the face of more Black people than Florida State Attorney Angela Corey.

Since being elected to the position in 2008, State Attorney Angela Corey’s record has been one of scandal and high-profile political trials. This means the people of Jacksonville have a special responsibility to make sure she loses her upcoming primary on Aug. 30, which is closed to all but Republican voters because of a dirty move by her office. Why is it so important to get rid of Angela Corey, and what’s the best way to get rid of her?

A look at Angela Corey’s work over the past few years demonstrates why she’s the worst State Attorney in the U.S. Studying community efforts will answer how Jacksonville can finally get rid of Corey and strike a blow against racist discrimination and national oppression in Florida.

Disappointing high-profile cases

Florida tries more juveniles as adults than any other state in the country and Jacksonville’s Angela Corey tries more juveniles as adults than any other city in the state.

In 2011, Angela Corey oversaw the case of Christian Fernandez, a 12-year-old Latino boy who accidentally killed his younger brother. Corey’s grand jury indicted Christian Fernandez as an adult on charges of first degree murder and aggravated child abuse. Christian did time in solitary confinement at an adult facility before his trial, where he eventually pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

In 2012, Republican Governor of Florida Rick Scott appointed Angela Corey to the trial of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin. Miraculously, unlike her case against 12-year-old Christian Fernandez, Corey famously failed to get a conviction of the killer and Zimmerman walked free. This injustice contributed to the creation of the Black Lives Matter slogan, organization and movement. Zimmerman has resurfaced in the media several times since he murdered Trayvon for additional misconduct.

In 2012, Corey also prosecuted a 31-year-old Black woman, Marissa Alexander, for firing a warning shot against her abusive husband. Although no one was harmed in the incident and the husband, Rico Gray, admitted to prosecutors that the abused Alexander tried to leave the home before things escalated, Corey had no problem convicting the innocent woman. After three years, Alexander eventually entered a plea deal and was released from prison.

In 2014, Corey was involved in the trial of Michael Dunn for the murder of Jordan Davis. Michael Dunn was a white killer who pulled a gun and fired ten shots into a car full of Black teenagers parked at a Jacksonville gas station after they refused Dunn’s demand that they turn off their loud music. None of the Black teenagers were armed, but thanks to Angela Corey, Dunn’s first trial resulted in a mistrial verdict. A mass movement brought the case national attention, and Dunn was eventually convicted of Jordan’s murder after a re-trial.

These are only a small handful of Corey’s worst cases, but they prove a point. If you are white and murder a Black youth, Angela Corey is going to protect you. If you are a young Black or Latino person, Angela Corey is probably going to try you as an adult and go for the harshest sentence possible. Chattel slavery and old Jim Crow laws have given way to a new system of Jim Crow discrimination in Jacksonville, with Angela Corey as a primary figurehead.

Rampant corruption and dirty politics

There have been several alleged scandals in Angela Corey’s office over the past few years. 

According to some sources who worked for Corey in the past, her office may have hidden important information about Duval County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Margarita Arruza, who developed severe memory loss while on the job. Allegedly, this was kept secret from attorneys working with Arruza. If true, this means that hundreds of cases may be in question since the autopsy data Arruza collected may have been inaccurate.

In addition to that alleged corruption, Angela Corey’s current re-election campaign has also proven questionable. Angela Corey is running as a Republican against Melissa Nelson and Wes White, also Republicans, and a write-in Democratic party candidate.

Angela Corey’s campaign manager was exposed after personally filing paperwork for the Democratic party write-in candidate, who has no real chance of winning the office. Now that a Democrat has entered the State Attorney’s race, the primary has become closed and only those registered as Republicans can vote against Angela Corey on Aug. 30. Over 58% of Duval County citizens are not Republicans, and won’t get any say on Aug. 30. Effectively, whoever wins the Republican primary is almost sure to win against the underfunded and unorganized write-in candidate later this year. It’s worth noting that the write-in candidate is a long-time Angela Corey supporter and even donated money to her campaign in the past.

The story is as ridiculous as it sounds. Alexander Pantinakis resigned as Angela Corey’s campaign manager after local and national media broke the story.

Angela Corey clearly needs to go – it’s time to take a look at how the people of Jacksonville can get her out of office.

Mass political struggle needed in August

There are three main aspects to the fight against Angela Corey from now through the primary. These three aspects are grassroots struggle, using the media and voting.

The most important factor that can help bring Angela Corey’s reign to an end is the mass political struggle growing in Jacksonville. The city of Chicago has proven that a mass movement to remove a state attorney can be victorious. Across Jacksonville, rallies, meetings and teach-ins have been held about the need to get Corey out of office. Readers are welcome to follow the Jacksonville Progressive Coalition (JPC) on Facebook for more information about upcoming events demanding Angela Corey out. By building a popular mass movement against the system of racial and national oppression Angela Corey represents, the people can defeat the rich and powerful supporters of a broken system.

There are three types of media coverage that will help get Angela Corey out of office – mainstream media coverage, independent media coverage, and social media coverage. Several local papers like the Folio and the Florida Times Union have been running articles that expose Angela Corey’s bad track record and corruption. Other sources like The Left Turn News Network and Fight Back! have been covering the fight against Corey from an independent perspective. Across Jacksonville and the entire nation, people are blogging and posting on social media about the terrible things Angela Corey has done and the corruption that is rampant in her office. Spreading the truth about Angela Corey makes it more likely she will lose power this year.

Several groups in town have banded together to form an alliance dedicated to getting everyone to temporarily change their party affiliation to Republican so they can vote Angela Corey out of office in the closed primary on Aug. 30. July 29 was the last day to change party affiliation and still vote in the primary, and reports indicate that efforts resulted in a few thousand citizens changing their party affiliation for the primary. This is good work that will help to strike a blow against the enemy, and will supplement other efforts to build a mass movement against Angela Corey.

Corey is running against Melissa Nelson and Wes White in the Republican primary. While neither Nelson nor White are the candidates Jacksonville deserves, Nelson defended 12-year-old Christian Fernandez back in 2012 and has the most support according to several polls. Wes White describes himself as a constitutional conservative and openly supports Donald Trump for president. Everyone should study the platforms of both candidates and ultimately vote against Angela Corey.

The road forward

People who can vote, should vote against Angela Corey on Aug. 30, and they should do even more to strike blows against her and the system she represents. 

Getting Angela Corey out of office is not going to solve every problem Black and working-class people face in Jacksonville, but it will be a start. Across the nation, organizations are looking to the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR) and their Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) initiative – which essentially boils down to a strong, democratically elected police review board with serious teeth that can withstand intimidation and co-option by the system.

History has shown us that the masses are the makers of history, and when the right political line is applied to a mass struggle, the people can win real victories and strike blows against oppression. Jacksonville will be a center of struggle over the next few weeks, and by relying on the people and organizing in the community, justice is sure to prevail.

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