by Elizabeth Marie Taveras and Jonathan Brand
(note: both authors were present in the courtroom during Marissa Alexander’s sentencing)

Click here for more on our continuing coverage of Marissa Alexander’s case

As millions of children across the country are buying bouquets and making cards for Mothers Day, the children of Marissa Alexander won’t have that opportunity because their mother is starting a 20 year prison sentence not as a criminal, but as another victim of Florida’s misguided legal system. Who is Marissa? She is a young African-American mother of three who stood her ground against her long-term abuser yet is now being sentenced as if she was the perpetrator of the violence.

Her sentencing took place at the Duval County Courthouse early Friday morning at 9am.  Shortly after the opening formalities, a steady procession of character witnesses testified on Marissa’s behalf as a good mother – but, alas, she was sentenced to 20 years in prison. As witnesses to this injustice, we

felt that it was important to speak out about this immediately. As we watched the sentence get meted out to Marissa Alexander, we thought about our own experiences as children of mothers. We thought about our own mothers. We thought about the indignities that children and mothers endure, not just in Marissa’s situation but in the many situations where families are ripped apart by injustice. Standing outside the courthouse, we collectively understood that this sentence, on the heels of Mother’s day,
is unjust – and this injustice, we believe, should prompt all of us to reflect on the meaning of Mother’s Day through the eyes of Marissa Alexander.

The feeling throughout the sentencing was both extremely surreal and sad. Tissues were handed out by the police officers on duty and the room was quiet as family members bemoan the definite reality Marissa will have to live in. There was, however, a feeling of hope as family members, organizers, and legal advisers met just outside the Courthouse discussing the necessary steps to carry this case as far as it needs to for justice to prevail. The most poignant words we heard that day came directly from Havalin Alexander, Marissa Alexander’s daugher who said:

 “Good Morning everyone, I would like to start by saying that for someone to feel strongly for my mom to spend time in prison is just wrong because my mom didn’t do anything and we want her out. Im so sad that my mom is in this position right now and so is my family. I just don’t understand, my mom didn’t do anything harmful to anyone and for you to give her twenty years… if anyone needs that it is Rico Gray. I feel upset that Mr. Rico did this to my mom. She is a sweet caring loving person, picked us up from school helped us make posters, I miss that a lot. I would really like to thank her for all she’s done for us. I want to hug you, kiss you, I love you mommy… I truly mean that.”

Hearing
those moving words from this little girl, as she witnesses her mother
go to prison for 20 years, moved us to tears. Remembering that, just a
few weeks ago, we witnessed the man that shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin
to death go free on bond, moved us to anger. Marissa Alexander did not kill anyone, was abused, and was defending herself. She now faces 20 years in prison, and her kids will
spend this Mother’s Day, if they are lucky, talking to her through
prison glass. Zimmerman kills Martin and can spend Mother’s Day with his
family. Where is the justice?

During Marissa’s sentencing the prosecuting attorney kept referring to her abuser as the “victim.” In her brief to the court, the same
Prosecutor reduced Marissa’s history of abuse to one of “minor bruises.” 
Every mother, sister, wife, aunt and daughter should feel appalled and ashamed at the Florida legal system and its inability to properly understand the difference between an “abuser” and a “victim.” Today a serial abuser is free to roam Florida and do what he pleases while one of his victim’s will begin to serve her 20 year sentence.

On behalf of R.Y.P.E (Reclaim Your Power & Equality), Occupy Miami and as children and mothers, we stand in solidarity with Marissa Alexander and her family during this difficult time on a difficult holiday.  As was said in the court room by our friends from the Dream Defenders (see below)…”We who believe in justice shall not rest…”

Click here for more on our continuing coverage of Marissa Alexander’s case

Elizabeth Marie Taveras is Cuban-American student activist and President of
S.T.A.N.D. (Students Toward a New Democracy) at Miami-Dade College. She is
also a founding member of R.Y.P.E. (Reclaim Your Power Equality) and is an
activist with Occupy Miami. Elizabeth is a journalism student who believes
in the power of personal narratives to transform our world.

Jonathan Brand is a Venezuelan-American who has been a key organizer with

Occupy Miami. A graduate of Florida State University, Jonathan is a strong
critic of the criminal justice system and a proponent of transparency and
alternative media in furtherance of that goal. In the past, he was a member
of the “Occupy FIU 7,” a group of community activists and student leaders
who were arrested while engaging in political dissent; all charges were
subsequently dropped.