General Assembly rallies with local activist groups against expansion of Spokane County Jail, raises almost $40,000 for community center.
Participants march to the General Assembly public witness event, “Demand Smart Justice for Spokane,” on June 20. (© 2019 Nancy Pierce/UUA)
Chanting “End mass incarceration!” and “Schools not cells!” about 1,000 Unitarian Universalists gathered in a public park in Spokane, Washington, for the General Assembly 2019 public witness event June 20. The crowd, many in Side With Love T-shirts and holding signs, heard from a number of local partners and UU leaders, including UUA President Susan Frederick-Gray, who called for an end to mass incarceration nationally and for the Spokane County Board of Commissioners to abandon plans to expand the Spokane County Jail.
“Spokane is a beautiful city, but it can be a lonely city for a person of color,” local activist Sandra Williams (see 'If I didn’t tell that story, it wouldn’t get told') told the crowd. “This is the most supported I have felt in a very, very long time.”
Music by Emma’s Revolution included a song the musicians wrote on the spot with the lyrics “more justice, no more jails.” Side With Love partnered for the action with the local organizing community, which includes Smart Justice Spokane, Peace & Justice Action League of Spokane, the Spokane NAACP, Spokane Community Against Racism, and the UU Church of Spokane, which have fought for more than ten years to resist jail expansion and to press for restorative justice and other reforms.
“What we’re doing here today is demonstrating the power of we,” said Everette R.H. Thompson, Side With Love campaign manager, who emceed the rally.
The General Assembly also raised almost $40,000 for Spokane’s new Carl Maxey Center, a community center devoted to serving the city’s black population.
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Elaine McArdle is a UU World senior editor and a member of First Unitarian Church in Portland, Oregon. An award-winning journalist with more than 20 years of experience, she has also written for the Boston Globe, Harvard Law Bulletin, and others.
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If I didn’t tell that story, it wouldn’t get told
A journalist on the front lines in a battle for criminal justice reform in Spokane, Washington.