By Michael L. Sampson II
Jacksonville, FL – On May 11, students from the civil rights group Dream Defenders protested at the sentencing hearing of Marissa Alexander, a young black woman who was convicted of aggravated assault stemming from an episode in 2010 where she fired a warning shot at her abusive ex-husband Rico Gray, who had previously beaten her.
Dream Defenders burst out singing, “We who believe in freedom will not rest until it’s won,” as the prosecutor read its last arguments. Cops inside the courthouse converged on the protesters and quickly escorted them out of the courtroom and the courthouse. But that wasn’t before Dream Defender Ciara Taylor, senior at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University started the chant, “No justice, no peace!”
“We feel that this case shows the absurdity in our broken system in that a Black woman who is a victim of domestic abuse who defends herself is going to jail for 20 years while a killer like George Zimmerman is walking free,” said Dream Defender organizer Michael Sampson. “This is a clear episode of a racist criminal justice system choosing to make a victim of yet another person of color but as well, this shows also a sexist criminal justice system that doesn’t care for the struggles of women and victims of domestic abuse.”
Alexander was sentenced by Florida Judge James Daniel to 20 years in jail under the state’s 10-20-life, mandatory-minimum law.
“Such a law seems to disproportionally affect Black and brown youth,” said Sampson. “The system needs changing and we’re gonna organize and mobilize to demand freedom for Marissa Alexander and as well come back stronger and fight back against this tyranny.”
The Dream Defenders are the same student group that marched 40 miles from Daytona Beach to Sanford demanding justice for Trayvon Martin. The same group also shut down the Sanford police headquarters by blocking the doors on April 9. Two days later, Zimmerman was arrested due to public pressure.
“Dream Defenders is a student civil rights group dedicated to defending the dream of Black, brown and other oppressed peoples in this society who are often the victim of this corrupt system,” said Dream Defender Cecelia O’Brien. “We will continue growing and keep defending the dream of oppressed peoples in Florida and nationwide until our voices are heard. We cannot be drowned out.”