Activists launched a Mother’s Day “Week of Action” campaign on Friday to support Marissa Alexander, the Florida woman facing sixty years in prison for firing warning shots to ward off her abusive husband.
Alexander was initially convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, despite the fact that her husband had attacked her and nobody was injured, and sentenced to twenty years in prison. A circuit judge overturned that conviction on appeal, and now Florida State Attorney Angela Corey is seeking a sixty-year prison sentence for Alexander. A hearing has been set for May 16 to determine whether Alexander qualifies for another “stand your ground” hearing. Jury selection for her retrial is scheduled to begin on July 21.
Members of Free Marissa Now, an advocacy group, demonstrated outside of Corey’s office Friday, inviting people to send cards to Alexander. They also launched a social media campaign to raise funds for her legal defense.
The group also hopes to shed light on the impact of mass incarceration on women. The female prison population grew 832 percent from 1977 to 2007, about double the growth rate of male prisons. Seventy percent of incarcerated women are mothers, the majority of whom served as primary caretakers before they were separated from their children. Alexander, a mother of two teenage twins and a 3-year-old daughter, will spend the holiday under house arrest.
We spoke with Alisa Bierria, an activist with the Free Marissa Now campaign and PhD candidate at Stanford University, about Alexander’s case and the “Week of Action.” (This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Can you tell me a little about this Mother’s Day campaign?
Marissa Alexander is a proud mother of three, including teenage twins and a 3-year-old daughter. She had given premature birth to her youngest child nine days before she was forced to defend her life after being attacked by her abusive estranged husband. When she was incarcerated for almost three years for defending herself, she was forced away from her children, including a baby who was still breastfeeding. Her reality as a mother is central to her experience of violence from both her husband and the state. We launched the Mother’s Day Week of Action as a way to build support for Marissa and to highlight the ways in which issues of mothering and reproductive justice really shapes her case and experiences of both domestic violence and incarceration. Those issues are intertwined for so many mothers in the United States, so we wanted to help people make the connections.