Against the Current, No. 195, July/August 2018

AN ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE and community activist in Detroit since she was a teenager, Siwatu-Salama Ra represented Detroit in the Paris climate talks. But today she is in prison.

Although Michigan has a Stand Your Ground Law that covers those acting in self-defense, Siwatu was convicted for pointing her unloaded, registered gun at a woman who rammed her car while Siwatu’s two-year-old was inside. The police branded her as “the aggressor” because the woman filed the police report first.

Apparently the jury did not believe that Siwatu was scared for the life and well-being of her family, and therefore convicted her of felonious assault. While the law requires a mandatory two-year sentence for the conviction, the jury was unaware of that reality.

Already four months’ pregnant, Siwatu was taken into custody immediately after being sentenced. At the end of May she delivered her son in prison, but was unable to keep him with her.

The local media and “Democracy Now” have covered the case, pointing out that the stereotypical person the Stand Your Ground Law was designed for was not a young African-American activist and mother. A five-minute video, narrated by her mother — also a community activist – is at https://bit.ly/2JdPi8E. The “Democracy Now” interview is at https://bit.ly/2kPmmVF.

In Detroit the activist community has set up a facebook page, #FreeSiwatu, to coordinate publicity and provide support to Siwatu and her family.

July-August 2018, ATC 195