FREE MARISSA NOW: A National Campaign for Justice
From the printed program for Standing Our Ground Against Reproductive Oppression, Gender Violence and Mass Incarceration, a national week of action in Jacksonville, FL, July 25 - August 1, 2014
Free Marissa Now (FMN) stands on the shoulders of Jacksonville activists, family and friends who came to the aid of Marissa Alexander during her first trial. Friends and Family of Marissa Alexander started by Aleta Alston Toure' planned along with Florida New Majority (FNM) organizer Angie Nixon a schedule for actions three days before the Marissa Trial. When Judge Daniel announced a 20year sentence on May 11, 2012, Dream Defenders stood up in the courtroom and chanted and sang Freedom Songs to express their outrage. They held marches and rallies that attracted national attention. Not long after the verdict NAACP sat with Florida New Majority and Friends and Family of Marissa in sponsoring and planning the Rally to the Duval Courthouse with Martin Luther King III as the keynote speaker.
Their actions brought news of this injustice far beyond Jacksonville. People were appalled to learn that Prosecutor Angela Corey who had to be forced by an outpouring of protest merely to arrest the murderer of Trayvon Martin had denied Stand Your Ground protection to an African American domestic violence survivor who fired a warning shot that injured no one.
It was the blatant racism and sexism involved that caught the attention of Radical Women activists in Seattle. Beginning in May 2012, Radical Women Organizer Helen Gilbert got in contact with Lincoln Alexander and worked with others in Radical Women to issue a statement, gather petition signatures, create a factsheet, and reach out to local feminists of color. A series of public meetings was held in Seattle's African American bookstore and the Pacific Northwest Alliance to Free Marissa Alexander was born. Members marched and petitioned for Marissa at community parades and festivals, and held a huge banner over the freeway in October 2012 for Domestic Violence Awareness.
Hearing about this work in the Pacific Northwest led Sumayya Fire, located in Maryland, and a leader of the African American/Black Women's Cultural Alliance, to contact Helen Gilbert to explore joint work in September 2012. They began collaborating on a Strategic Mobilization Plan that outlined the goals of a national campaign. Creation of the plan spanned several months and the team working on it grew to include Aleta AlstonToure', from New Jim Crow Movement Jacksonville, and Alisa Bierria from Oakland, California, a leader of INCITE! The plan defined the campaign's goals: "1) Win pardon or victorious appeal for Marissa Alexander, survivor of domestic violence, 2) Promote social and systemic change; collective understanding and sensitivity toward all victims of domestic violence; judicial systems evaluate and change laws that work against victims, 3) Affirm and strengthen women's right to self-defense attacks, 4) Increase the collaboration of women and men acting across geographic, racial, religious, and various other cultural lines to support the most vulnerable."
After months of preparation, Free Marissa Now was formally launched in July 2013. It has reached people in all parts of the United States, Canada, France, Britain, Japan, Australia, and elsewhere. Marches, rallies, fundraisers, movie showings, art exhibits, flashmobs, letterwriting parties, Twitter and "selfie" campaigns, vigils, prayer gatherings, poetry slams, and street corner information tables are just a few of the activities that Marissa's defenders have done from coast to coast. Supporters have donated $78,000 for the Freedom Fund. Hundreds of organizations and individuals have endorsed the call to free Marissa. The expertise of Alisa Bierria gave Free Marissa Now a polished, informative presence with a web page, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. The Chicago Alliance to Free Marissa Alexander initiated the highly successful Marissa Alexander online store. Pittsburgh sisters put a focus on Marissa at their One Billion Been Rising event. Artists created paintings, tshirts, buttons, stickers, songs, poems and videos. Free Marissa Now joined a delegation at the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights to testify about how structural racism and sexism drive the application of Stand Your Ground law. The "#31 for Marissa" media campaign ran daily in Ebony during October 2013. Supportive media attention has made more and more people aware of how the injustice done to Marissa Alexander connects to the systemic racism that betrayed Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis and has locked away untold numbers of victims of mandatory minimum sentencing.
This irresistible grassroots movement was instrumental to keeping the case in the public eye, winning a new trial and gaining Marissa's release on home detention in November 2013 after nearly three years in prison. Huge victories! But it's not over until Marissa is free and until justice is assured for every domestic violence survivor, young person of color, immigrant, LGBT person, and all others targeted by an unjust system. As the FMN Mobilization Plan says, "We must reach the roots of our grassroots communities to see REAL CHANGE. It's time to It's time to make that change happen NOW. We are the people who can do it!" Free Marissa Now