Angela Corey is the Bull Connor of Today

By Stephanie Guilloud, Project South Co-Director

As Project South heads down to Jacksonville, Florida for Marissa Alexander’s final hearing, we reflect on our work in alliance with New Jim Crow Movement over the last two and a half years of confrontation with DA Angela Corey’s version of state violence.

In 1965, Bull Connor in Birmingham and Sheriff Jim Clark in Selma represented the face of white supremacy and were important guardians of cruelty protecting Jim Crow South as local law enforcement. In public protests, they knocked heads into concrete, tear gassed crowds, and unapologetically defended organized racism. Angela Corey, the top cop District Attorney in Florida’s 4th district represents the face of this history today, reflecting a growing trend of 21st century racist cruelty that incarcerates teenagers and domestic abuse survivors while letting murderers walk out without consequence.

Corey’s version of legal terror uses the courts instead of the streets to remind us ‘who is boss’ by enforcing public and racist hostility. Her attack on Marissa Alexander is not just about punishing one woman. After Marissa won an appeal and secured a second trial that threw out a 20-year sentence, Angela Corey ran an intimidation campaign, announcing publicly that she would seek a 60-year sentence in the new trial.  As much as this fight feels like a personal vendetta, Corey has built her entire career on excessive punitive practices that have set wild records for over-sentencing and sending disproportionate numbers of juveniles to adult court. Corey’s actions in Marissa’s case are directly connected to punishing the growing movement that has risen to confront the public killings of Trayvon Martin in Sanford FL and Jordan Davis in Jacksonville FL, where she also served as prosecutor. Forced into a plea deal that will keep her under state surveillance and detained at her home for two more years, Marissa is part of growing trends in incarceration that force plea deals and keep more and more people under state control in their own homes.

As in the days of Bull Connor, people have not remained silent in the face of this brutality. Social movements are rising again to confront racist violence and the legal frameworks that protect it.

On April 26, 2013, Marissa’s mother Ms. Jenkins attended the second Southern Movement Assembly anchored by the New Jim Crow Movement in a park on the historically Black Northside of Jacksonville. Under an old army tent, donated by a local church, a participant read a heartfelt letter written by Marissa to the entire assembly of 250 representatives from 10 states. We stormed the Duval County Courthouse the next day, and the Southern Movement Assembly participants committed to both Marissa’s individual fight for freedom and the broader pattern of injustice that this case represents.

A few months after that on July 14, 2013, Angela Corey was smiling at the press conference that announced Zimmerman’s acquittal for the murder of Trayvon Martin. Grassroots movements sprung into action, and the Southern Movement Assembly organized the Walk for Dignity from Jacksonville to Sanford. The call from Aleta Alston-Toure of Jacksonville was met by hundreds of people, over 50 organizations, churches, and community groups. We walked for two demands: Free Marissa Alexander & Fire Angela Corey. This ongoing fight has galvanized new generations of active communities who say: Enough is Enough.

On the eve of her release into home detention, we recognize the incredible grassroots movements in Florida, around the South, and across the country that have made sure that Marissa’s case was part of a national dialogue and that also made important connections between this case and the growing impunity for violence we see in our communities.

For more on Angela Corey’s impact on Jacksonville: Check out Timeline

For more on Jacksonville PMA #BlackWomen’sLivesMatter: Click here

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