Statement to the Press
Marissa Alexander supporters fight exclusion from hearing courtroom
and prompting to leave Duval County Courthouse hallways
At the October 31, status hearing on the Marissa Alexander case ten police officers stood in the courtroom, while three rows of seats in the courtroom remained unfilled, while a number of people were denied entry although they had arrived on time for the hearing. Several groups had to wait outside in the hallway of the sixth floor, including people who had traveled all the way from Orlando and Miami to attend. Following the brief hearing, everyone leaving the courtroom and those present in the hallway were told they had to leave immediately. The peaceful and quiet crowd was herded to the elevators by large numbers of uniformed officers. Public escalators were turned off.
Marissa Alexander is the African American mother of three who was sentenced to 20 years for firing a warning shot to stop an attack by her abusive ex-husband. No one was injured in the incident. In late September, the Florida Appeals Court overturned Alexander’s guilty verdict and ordered a new trial. At the October 31 hearing, a bond hearing was scheduled (now moved to Wednesday, November 13) and a new trial was set for March 31, 2014. Alexander has already served nearly 2 years in prison.
Jacksonville activist Richard Burton, director of Project R.E.A.C.H. and a 12-year member of the national NAACP Board of Directors, has contacted the national NAACP legal office to ask them to investigate the community’s exclusion from a public proceeding and a public building. Burton points out, “The trial is about the abuse of a woman. And courthouse security added to that abuse by mistreating a group of supporters that was largely made up of women.”
Aleta Alston-Touré, Jacksonville organizer for the Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign, said, “The closed courtroom door is a constitutional violation right out of a 1963 Civil Rights history book. The whole thing seemed like a flashback, evoking the spirit of Bull Connor and his dogs and fire hoses at the base of the courthouse stairs where the police in police golf carts were assembled. Public dollars built this monstrous $350 million building, but the public was denied access. Taxpayers – including those denied access – helped pay for the building and have a right to enter public hearings and to be treated with dignity, especially those who are physically challenged and community elders. We are contacting courthouse staff to ensure access will be allowed via escalators, elevators and entry to the courtroom. Most of us moved out of the hallway were black women. The big elephant is still in the room is systemic racism.”
On Friday, November 13 at 4pm EST, supporters of Marissa Alexander will be back at the courthouse again to support Alexander at her bond hearing. Alston-Touré appeals to the public, especially male community leaders, to attend. “We need you there to demonstrate that the public will not be denied entry to the Duval County Courthouse and to show that protection from abuse is not just a woman’s issue but a human issue,” she said.
The Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign is a grassroots efforts led by a core of organizers from all corners of the U.S. representing the African American/Black Women’s Cultural Alliance, New Jim Crow Movement – Jacksonville, Radical Women, INCITE!, Southern Freedom Movement, and the Pacific Northwest Alliance to Free Marissa Alexander. The campaign has launched the Free Marissa Freedom Fund on Indigogo to raise $10,000 to help pay costs of Alexander’s new trial. Donations can be made at http://www.indiegogo.com/
To arrange an interview of Aleta Alston-Touré or one of the other people prompted to leave the courthouse hallways on October 31, call Ms. Alston-Touré at 904-631-1674.
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