Activists march, rally for Marissa Alexander

Groups holding 'Stand Our Ground' week in Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Activists marched from the Crowne Plaza Hotel across the Main Street Bridge to the Duval County Courthouse on Monday morning in support of Marissa Alexander.

In 2012, Alexander was found guilty of three counts of armed aggravated assault for firing what she claimed was a warning shot during a fight with her estranged husband, but that conviction was overturned and her retrial is set for December.

Last week, a judge denied Alexander's request for a "stand your ground" hearing. She remains on house arrest.

The groups Free Marissa Now and Atlanta-based Project South are holding what they call "Stand Our Ground" week to raise awareness of Alexander's case and to celebrate exercising civil and human dignity rights. The groups will speak at different schools and libraries before ending the week at the courthouse at 9 a.m. Friday.

ONLINE: Complete list of Stand Our Ground Week events

"This issue of injustice facing women, facing black bodies, facing children, facing poor people in this country, it's systemic," said StaceyAnn Chin, of the Free Marissa Now campaign. "It means that we have to fix it together. It means people in New York City have to join with people in Florida, people in Mississippi, and then it has to go global because this issue of injustice, it's like a cancer, it spreads everywhere. Today, it's Marissa. Tomorrow, it's you. And yesterday, it was Trayvon. And they will keep going unless we speak out as people. We have power; we have voice. Let us raise it together and let them know that we will not be silent while they keep taking our children."

The protesters spoke passionately and powerfully in hopes of bringing change.

"We see this as a human rights violation against her right to parent, against her bodily autonomy, and we are here to stand in solidarity with "Free Marissa" and many of the other women who have to deal with an unjust, criminal justice system that lacks the ability to really be able to see the sexism that oozes through the legislation," said Monica Simpson of Sister Song in Atlanta.

On Sunday, members from the same group gathered at Jacksonville Beach and spelled out "Free Marissa" in the sand. They said this week is an opportunity for them to come together and challenge the criminal justice system.

"For us, how can we have justice if we don't fight for people like Marissa Alexander, and we bring all these other people together to make the fight broader. It's not just for her, it's for equal treatment of people and treatment that has fairness to it, justice to it," said Suzanne Pharr.

Pharr is one of about 100 activists who marched for Marissa Alexander.

The activists, coming from as far as New York and Los Angeles, hope for a different outcome in Alexander's second trial.

"I thought it was extremely unfair to not give her the capacity to defend herself. The SYG law is not a great law in the first place, but if you're going to have a law it should apply to all people. The idea of people constantly being in self-defense is not something I like," said Pharr.

Emery Wright with Project South said this is a case of injustice and not only are they fighting for Alexander, but also anyone in similar cases across the nation.

"Even though there's lots of injustices that go on every day doesn't mean we can't fight them as they emerge," Wright said. "So we're here to show the power of numbers and that there's thousands of people around the country demanding the freedom of Marissa Alexander, and that's going to be one step toward fixing a lot of the problems in the criminal justice system."

Activists said State Attorney Angela Corey needs to drop charges against Alexander and step down.

"I am personally a survivor of domestic violence and so this is important to me that other women, including Marissa, will have the right to defend themselves when it's on the record that they have been abused," said E. Williams of the National Congress of Black Women in Washington. "We're embarrassed that Angela Corey is a woman and that she's prosecuting this case and the way that she's prosecuting it with unfairness to Marissa."

Meanwhile, the State Attorney's Office issued this statement Monday:

"State Attorney Angela Corey has a duty to protect this community from those who commit violent acts against others. She also has a responsibility to seek justice for all victims in the Fourth Judicial Circuit, and she will continue to do so.

"This special interest group has repeatedly asked for charges to be dropped in the Marissa Alexander case. This same group has claimed -- 'Marissa Alexander was originally denied the use of Stand Your Ground laws to defend herself in court.' The facts are -- Ms. Alexander had a full Stand Your Ground hearing in 2011. The judge ruled the defendant shot in anger rather than fear and was not 'standing her ground.' The First District Court of Appeal affirmed this decision. Recently, Judge Daniel ruled there will not be another Stand Your Ground hearing. The State stands ready to take this case to trial."