OPINION: How We Can Work Toward Justice For Heather Ellis

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In case you’ve been under a rock for the past three weeks, Heather Ellis is the 24-year old black college student now facing 15-years in prison after being accused of cutting in line at Walmart.  Of course, she was not charged for cutting in line, but the Walmart clerk refused to serve her because she accused her of cutting the line, which led to an argument resulting in the police being called.  Some how, this pastor’s daughter with no criminal record is now being charged with two felony counts of assaulting a police officer.  The truth, however, is that even based on the officer’s own accounts, there does not appear to have been anything that occurred in that store which justifies taking this young woman’s future.

RELATED: Black Woman Faces 15 Years In Prison For Cutting Line At Wal-Mart

As a result, Heather has been unable to go to medical school and has spent three years fighting the charges.   Here are the latest updates on her case:

1)    We are going to Kennett, Missouri in a national rally set to take place on the court house steps on November 16 at 11 am.  We are going to demand that Heather be freed and that the United States Justice Department do a full investigation of the judicial system in Kennett, Missouri.

2)    The prosecutor in the case, Stephen Sokoloff, has voluntarily stepped down, citing our public pressure as part of the reason he is leaving.   The truth, however, is that we are incredibly suspicious of this move, and not sure if this is a good or bad thing for Heather.  The justice system in this area does not appear to be credible when it comes to how it treats black people.

RELATED: OPINION: Why Black Students Must Stand Up For Heather Ellis

3)    The new prosecutor, Morley Swingle, wrote a book with a Confederate Flag on the cover.  That is not a good sign when it comes to showing any form of sensitivity for people of color.

4)    The Justice Department of Missouri has been called in for our protection during our rally, since they have reason to believe that the environment is going to be quite hostile and possibly violent.  We are going to march anyway.

5)    Many across the country are finding ways to hold Walmart accountable.  I am not calling for a boycott, but on the website for the case, I am asking that supporters of Heather’s cause use our form letters to write to Walmart to ask for their assistance in helping this young woman.  A call from the right Walmart executive could probably make this all go away.  Instead, Walmart has simply changed its email addresses in response to the thousands of letters and emails they are receiving in support of Heather Ellis.  So far, I am disappointed in their reaction.

6)    We are also concerned about the case of Walter Currie, a 15-year old kid in nearby Poplar Bluff, who was sprayed with gasoline and set on fire by one of his white classmates.  According to Walter’s mother, the child has been put in separate classes from the other kids, since they were told that his appearance would be disturbing to the students in his class.  This is the mindset of the place we are going to on Monday.  If you can spare a moment, we can use all the help we can get.

To keep up with the rally and get involved, you can visit www.TheHeatherEllisCase.com.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and author of the forthcoming book, “Black American Money.” For more information, please visit www.BoyceWatkins.com.

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