New Haven, Connecticut
Our vigil was held in front of the Federal Courthouse across from the Green on February 15th from 4:30-6:00pm. At least 65 people stopped by to show their support, peaking at about 35 folks at around 5:15pm. Even with two weeks notice, we had a pretty good turnout. In New Haven we are fortunate to have Yale student groups such as Critical Resistance and SLAM who are interested in criminal justice and prison reform issues and are willing to stand around in the cold long enough to get the message out. Many members of a local New Haven group run by Sally Joughin called People Against Injustice also came to the vigil. One woman read some letters that I received from prisoners over a megaphone.
The New Haven Register and The New Haven Advocate sent reporters but I haven't seen any articles in either paper about the event. We also faxed press releases to radio and TV stations and phoned them to confirm receipt but they never showed. That doesn't surprise me because our local TV stations seldom address controversial issues and would prefer to talk about the best restaurants in town or commuting to New Haven from the suburbs!
On Monday February 21, Gus and Odessa Smith spoke at the Afro-American Cultural Center on the Yale Campus to talk about their daughter Kemba's plight and how the Drug War has affected their family and many others. State Representative Mike Lawlor and Alderman Jelani Lawson also spoke out against mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders. I told Mr. Smith about our New Haven vigil and about the "Shattered Lives" Human Rights Exhibit that we held at the New Haven Library back in November and he seemed pleased.
On Wednesday, February 23, A debate about civil asset forfeiture was held on the Yale campus. The pro-reformers definitely won the debate because of the potential for abuse. It was widely publicized by the ACLU, CCLU and the Lindesmith Center. An article about the debate was written in the New Haven Register.
I would definitely be interested in holding another vigil on Mother's Day. Once I am finished with school in May monthly vigils are also a possibility.
Peace, Elaine Sabatino, TNC, Connecticut