SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, families and advocates came together for a “Walk For Justice” rally in San Jose to bring awareness to institutional racism and for those who have been wrongfully incarcerated.
Community advocates with about more than two dozen supporters gathered at San Jose City Hall Monday afternoon in support of Carlos Harris — who family members say was wrongfully incarcerated.
“It’s important, it’s definitely important and we thought why not on Martin Luther King celebration day as he fought for civil rights as these are civil rights as well,” said Aisha Hampton, cousin of Carols Harris.
Harris has spent the last 16 years of his life behind bars for crimes Hampton says he did not commit.
“He’s innocent and he’s serving a 28 year sentence and we are hoping he will be able to get a pardon for clemency,” said Hampton, who is also Harris’ cousin.
“There’s been so many injustices and thousands of people who are incarcerated that are innocent and we just really wanted to bring awareness to the public.”
According to the Innocence Project, which was founded in 1992 at Cardozo School of Law to exonerate wrongfully convicted individuals through DNA testing, there have been 375 DNA exonerees to date, with African-Americans accounting for 60% of all exonerees.
“Carlos like many many other people who are incarcerated in this country are incarcerated unfairly in a system that has not brought justice for working people,” said Carole Lesnick with the Socialist Workers Party.
“Never has, never will,” Lesnick added. “We also call an end to the death penalty have you noticed all of these people who are being put to death this past week, it’s just horrible.”
After the rally, the group marched from City Hall to the Martin Luther King Jr. Library on San Jose State’s campus for some final words of encouragement.
For years the family has fought for Harris’ innocence and tells KRON4 News that the event also aims to raise awareness on the living conditions of incarcerated individuals amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Hampton recited a handwritten letter from Harris as he explained it takes about a month for him to get any updates regarding the coronavirus.
“He stated, ‘it’s ugly out here cousin, we need some real news investigations in regards to the virus,’” said Hampton.
Now, family and supporters are calling on Gov. Gavin Newsom to pardon Harris as jail conditions have led to many inmates testing positive for the virus and some dying from it.
“We just want to let the public know the state and the conditions that inmates are facing today because they’re people too and there are a lot of people who are incarcerated,” said Hampton.
“We’re here at City Hall because in hopes that someone who has the power of the pen will hear these cries for the inmates and the families that have been affected.”