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.
Hundreds of Unitarian Universalists joined local activists June 20 in support of the Smart Justice Spokane coalition, which opposes the expansion of the Spokane County Jail. (© 2019 Christopher L. Walton/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. 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, publisher of the Black Lens, an African American-focused newspaper, 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, campaign manager for Side With Love, who emceed the rally.
At the end of the General Assembly Public Witness event, protesters arranged themselves into a giant heart. (© 2019 Christopher L. Walton/UUA)
Spokane activist Sandra Williams, publisher of the Black Lens, speaks at the rally to stop the jail expansion. (© 2019 Nancy Pierce/UUA)
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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.
Demonstrating the ‘power of we’
General Assembly rallies with local activist groups against expansion of Spokane County Jail, raises almost $40,000 for community center.