Justice for Jason

Justice for Jason

Anarchists in Trouble

In the early hours of February 3, 2008, twenty-two-year-old UMass Amherst student Jason Vassell was conversing with two friends in his dorm room, as university students often do. Trouble arose, however, because Jason Vassell is Black, his two friends white women, and standing outside his first floor window were two drunken white men, non-students with long records of racially motivated thuggery.

by Adrienne
BAAM Newsletter #18 (Boston)

In the early hours of February 3, 2008, twenty-two-year-old UMass Amherst student Jason Vassell was conversing with two friends in his dorm room, as university students often do. Trouble arose, however, because Jason Vassell is Black, his two friends white women, and standing outside his first floor window were two drunken white men, non-students with long records of racially motivated thuggery. The men started by yelling at Vassell, using such terms as `bitch,’ `nigger,’ `pussy,’ and `retard.’ While his friends went to call the police, the two men broke Vassell’s window. Gaining access to the dormitory, they attacked Vassell, breaking his nose and giving him a concussion. Vassell defended himself from this unprovoked attack with a pocketknife, injuring his attackers, Jonathan Bosse and Jonathan Bowes.

When the police finally arrived, they arrested Vassell, who had no priors whatsoever, referring to the student as a `drug dealer’ for no contextually clear reason, as well as an `asshole’ whose testimony was `bullshit.’ The district attorney charged him with two counts of aggravated assault and battery, charges that carry up to thirty years. Only one of his assailants, Jonathan Bowes, was arrested. The only charge he received from the DA was a misdemeanor civil rights violation, carrying 18 months max. Held on unreasonably high bail for five days and denied the meds that had been prescribed for his injuries, Vassell was subjected to many an indignity at the hands of law enforcement before his family finally managed to get him out of custody. Despite Vassell’s stellar academic record, he was forced to withdraw from the University.

Institutionalized white supremacy guarantees that atrocious crimes are committed against people of color every day, both by individuals and through institutions. Vassell’s case is exceptional only in that his friends, fellow students and enraged community members immediately organized a campaign in his defense. Through rallies, call-ins, editorials and general mobilizing in Western Mass, Justice for Jason has drawn so much attention to Vassell’s case that the obstinate DA has arranged for Vassell’s court dates to take place half an hour away in Northampton, fearing that a jury in Amherst would not be `impartial.’

Vassell’s lawyers filed a motion to dismiss the preposterous charges against the young man, but at the court date on February 18th, complicated, uninteresting legal barriers arose that must be overcome before the motion can be considered. An evidentiary discovery hearing was scheduled for March 2nd. Till then, check out www.justiceforjason.org and feel free to call the DA’s office and demand that they drop all charges against Jason Vassell. 413.586.9225

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