“Justice for Jason” struggle continues

September 16, 2008

AMHERST, Mass.--The struggle to win "Justice for Jason" continues at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst (UMass). Jason Vassell is a former UMass student who faces charges in a case in which his only offense was to defend himself from a hate crime.

On February 3, 2008, two white non-students smashed in a window in the dorm room where Vassell, who is African American, lived and harassed him with racist epithets. Despite the vandalism and civil rights violations committed by two men who had no reason to target the student, Vassell was the only one arrested or charged.

Vassell received two counts of assault with intent to murder and two counts of aggravated assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. John Bowes, one of the perpetrators, has since been charged with two hate crimes and disorderly conduct.

Since the charge, students, professors and community members has been organizing and mobilizing in the Justice for Jason campaign. Around 150 supporters attended a silent vigil at Vassell's most recent pretrial hearing in Northampton, Mass., on September 8.

The court deliberated for all of 13 seconds. As a UMass professor and member of the Justice for Jason campaign said afterward, "The judge was not glad to see you all here. Your presence highlights the colossal injustice of this case."

Vassell's court date is likely to be sometime in January. The next pretrial hearing will be on September 29 at the Hampshire Superior Court in Northampton. Another silent vigil will be held at the courthouse for students and community members to continue to show their outrage at the racism of a biased legal system.

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