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Protestors rally ahead of detained 15-year-old girl's hearing

Kate Wells/Michigan Radio

  They wanted Grace to be able to hear them. That’s what organizers of Sunday’s protest outside the Children’s Village juvenile detention center in Oakland County, as they called for the release of a 15-year-old girl who was detained in May after a judge ruled her failure to do her online schoolwork violated her probation.  

“We want to bring attention to the present school-to-prison incarceration system,” said Angelique Strong Marks, an activist. “And we believe that Grace's case is symbolic of that. You have a young lady who is African-American, who has a learning disability, who the judge now says needs mental help, incarcerated for things that they could have redirected to help with human resources and other areas. But instead they incarcerate her, they womanize her, and they criminalize her.”

More than 50 people met Sunday afternoon outside the Oakland County courthouse and marched with a sheriff’s escort to a strip of lawn next to the gates outside the detention center, one day ahead of the next scheduled hearing in this case. 

“When our children are under attack, what do we do?” one of the organizers called into a megaphone as they marched past a busy highway. “Stand up, fight back!” the crowd responded. 

Grace, who’s known only by her middle name, garnered national attention after her story was published  by ProPublica, Bridge Magazine and the Detroit Free Press, detailing the circumstances that led up to her incarceration during the COVID pandemic. 

Credit Kate Wells/Michigan Radio
After marching from the Oakland County courthouse, more than 50 people called for Grace's released, one day ahead of a schedule hearing to reconsider her case.

On Monday, the judge will hear Grace’s attorney’s motion to reconsider the case, ProPublica reports.  

"We wanted to bring attention to the fact that there is a hearing tomorrow, and there's a community that believes this is not just,” Strong Marks said. “That other things should have been done for Grace. And other things could have been done for Grace.” 

But Strong Marks and other activists said the factors that led to Grace’s incarceration weren’t limited to her alone. They released a resolution calling for a reexamination of the school discipline process and the role police play in schools; bias and other training for social workers and health and humans services workers; and an examination of possible sentencing disparities in the juvenile justice system for children of color and low income families. 

“We think it's overwhelming when we lay out what has to be changed,” Strong Marks said. “But it's more overwhelming when you live this life, when you’re a child that has to have all these obstacles against you...If you're a teacher, then you should be working on the issues with the school system. If you're a lawyer, then you can work on judicial reform. If you're an activist, You can work on the whole disciplinary system.So just find your place and do something. All of us have to do something.” 

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health and the COVID-19 pandemic.
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