JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Hundreds of people attended a rally and march Friday morning at the new Duval County Courthouse downtown in support of Marissa Alexander, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a handgun in the direction of her husband and children.
The Jacksonville chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People asked Martin Luther King III, Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., the new lawyers for Alexander, local and national clergy, politicians, statewide community leaders and the community to join them.
The rally and march began at Hemming Plaza at 8:30 a.m. It went from there to the courthouse, where it wrapped up just after noon.
Ralliers said their goal was to make their voices heard, bring attention to the unjust application of the law in similar cases and speak out for victims of domestic abuse.
King said if his father were there, would tell people to love one another and learn to live together instead of destroying each other.
"He would say, 'We've made strides, significant strides, but we still have a long way to go,'" King said. "His dream of freedom and justice and equality for all has not yet been realized."
Alexander was sentenced in May, when the judge upheld the minimum mandatory 20 years.
"I never would've thought ever in my life that my daughter would be in this position, because she is not a person that is violent, she's never had any dealings with the law, everything she did she tried to do it right," said Helen Jenkins, Alexander's mother.
NAACP President Isaiah Rumlin said lawyers will appeal the Alexander case, but they also want to hear from other people who feel they have been wrongly prosecuted by the "10-20-Life" statutes, a decision that was made by State Attorney Angela Corey.
It was one single shot from a handgun held by Alexander in August 2010 that landed her in prison for 20 years.
"There are crimes that perhaps do deserve 20 years, but not my daughter, and this rally shows that a lot of people feel the same way," Jenkins said.
Alexander claimed she fired the gun because she was a victim of domestic abuse.
"It doesn't send a good message for women," Jenkins said. "What do you do if you have an injunction and you can't be protected. What do you do?"
Alexander's arrest and sentence sparked outrage and protests, which continued Friday.
"There is a disparity in the legal system and this has to be stopped," Rumlin said.
He said Friday's march isn't only about Alexander's 20-year sentence but also other cases where lawyers believe the 10-20-Life statute was improperly applied.
Protesters said a judge should be able to decide if the statute should be used, rather than state attorneys.
In Alexander's case, Corey made the call. Following Friday's rally, a series of public hearings are being planned.
Rumlin wants to hear from others in the community in hopes of ultimately changing the law.
"Following today's rally, we are going to have meetings and take our information to legislators," Rumlin said.
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