“We want justice, not just us,” protesters chanted at a march and rally for Marissa Alexander Friday morning in downtown Jacksonville, Fla.
Alexander’s case is an example of a controversial Stand Your Ground decision that didn’t go in Alexanders favor. Many leaders, community members and the Alexander family expressed dissatisfaction with her sentence—20 years for firing a “warning shot” near her reportedly abusive husband.
The Jacksonville chapter of the NAACP hosted the event, which included local, state and national leaders as well as Alexander’s lawyers and her mother and sister. Attendees were in the hundreds.
Rep. Corrine Brown, a vocal champion of Alexander, told the crowd that the verdict pained her. She said that at first she could not stop crying.
While Brown found Alexander’s sentence upsetting (a fact made known when Brown confronted State Attorney Angela Corey about the case), the congresswoman also said youth are being classified as adults and felons at a startling rate. Brown said that help is needed for other victims and, “I know that the Lord has sent us help” with Alexander’s case in the form of New York based attorney, Michael G. Dowd.
Dowd told the crowd that society frequently supports battered women until they “are forced to defend themselves.”
On Alexander he said, “She didn’t even harm this animal.” According to NAACP representatives, Alexander’s sentence and other 10-20-life mandatory sentences are miscarriages of justice and “judicial lynchings.”
Jacksonville NAACP President Isaiah Rumlin encouraged supporters to vote for representatives with their best interests at heart and vote out people who didn’t deliver. He said that minorities were being overcharged and disproportionately sentenced at the state level.
Martin Luther King III echoed the need for people to use their political power. He said that people have to read the entire ballot when they vote. “Rarely do we see justice”, calling the criminal justice system “the criminal system.”
Alexander’s mother, Helen Jenkins, thanked the crowd for support and advocated for her daughter. “She did not commit a crime. She was protecting herself,” Jenkins said.
Alexander, a mother with a master’s degree, had no prior criminal history, but in less than 15 minutes a jury found her guilty of three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. During her trial, she invoked Stand Your Ground and said that she fired in self-defense. Many have drawn parallels between Alexander’s case and Trayvon Martin’s shooting death at the hands of George Zimmerman. Even though a judge denied Alexander Stand Your Ground immunity, police protected Zimmerman from arrest using Stand Your Ground.
As traditional media did not initially cover Alexander’s case, she now continues to be championed across several social media platforms.
Marissa Alexander’s name is a hashtag. A Facebook group entitled “Stand Your Ground: Justice for Marissa Alexander” boasted about 1,350 likes as of press time. “Support for Marissa Alexander” had more than 1,200 likes. A Free Marissa Alexander petition on change.org includes more than 15,000 signatures.
As far as courtroom work goes, Alexander’s attorney seemed unshaken when he addressed listeners. He said that his team would walk in the footsteps of one of the “great legal lights,” Thurgood Marshall and pursue justice.
“We are going to go back into the system, twist and turn it, and make it do the right thing,” Dowd said. If the status quo continues, Alexander’s mother reminded onlookers of the risks.
“It could be someone else tomorrow,” Jenkins said.