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Joe Mirkin: People must resist unfair prosecution

To the editor:

Responding to Tom Weiner’s Feb. 12 guest column on “The Central Park Five,” the new film by Ken Burns. I agree that “waiting for change isn’t working out.” That is why alongside many others I have deliberately engaged in a grassroots struggle against the state’s criminal justice apparatus that every day imprisons more poor people, people of color, queer people, trans people — essentially those who are not white heterosexuals with class privilege.

When Jason Vassell was attacked by racists in his UMass dorm room Feb. 3, 2008, and was subsequently expelled and charged with attempted murder, there were many of us who opted to engage in years-long struggle, protest and court support rather than “waiting for change.” When Springfield resident Charles Wilhite was arrested, charged, tried and convicted under false pretenses and sentenced to life imprisonment for a 2008 murder he did not commit, many individuals and groups banded together in struggle and protest instead of “waiting for change.” These struggles proved successful, as the drive to incarcerate Vassell was abandoned in 2010 and Wilhite was acquitted at his hard-won retrial on Jan. 17.

The prosecutions of Donald Perry and Michael Ververis further represent the state’s lust for mass incarceration, while the efforts known as “Justice for Donald” and “Justice for Michael” represent popular resistance to this oppression.

These local cases of racist injustice happened recently or are ongoing. I am certain that more unjust arrests, arraignments and prosecutions are taking place today in Springfield, Holyoke, Northampton and Greenfield. What we’ve seen is that neither voting for nor “waiting for change” can produce the justice we wish to see in our communities.

Various media coverage can bolster efforts to undo racism and oppression in our society. However, nothing will change for the better without feet in the street, fists in the air and our hearts against the system.

Joe Mirkin


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