The Committee for Justice for Jason Vassell (J4J) is a grassroots organization that formed in the aftermath of the attack and subsequent unfair and racist prosecution of Jason Vassell in February 2008. The committee is made up of UMass students & alumni and Pioneer Valley community members who have joined together outraged at the injustice that took place on the UMass campus and continues to this day in our Northwestern District Court system.
Our campaign has fought for over two years to ensure Justice for Jason. As a community we have mobilized in mass to pre-trial hearings, often turning out hundreds of supporters. We have held marches and rallies, written letters and organized letter writing campaigns demanding that the charges against Jason be dropped. We have mobilized international "Call-In Days" for Justice for Jason. Faculty and Students have called on the University to reinstate Jason and to investigate the UMass Police Department and the officers who responded to the hate crime against Jason Vassell. We will continue to fight until justice and equality has been served.
We believe that the District Attorney has chosen to pursue excessive charges against a young black victim with no criminal record and an exemplary academic and personal reputation. Concurrently, the DA has also chosen to pursue minor charges against only one of his two white attackers. Both of whom have a reputation for racial bias and one of whom, John Bowes, has been previously arrested for racist violence. The District Attorney’s decision to prosecute a black man and slap the wrists of two white men is yet another example of the long history of racist prosecutions that plague our country’s legal legacy. We stand as a community united for true justice, demanding that the District Attorney drop all charges against Jason Vassell
Further, as a university community we are angry and disturbed by the UMass Administration’s utter failure to protect the rights of one of its students. We believe UMass’ decision to force Jason to withdrawal, to remain silent in the face of injustice, and to ignore both a vicious hate crime in one of its student dorms and the destruction of UMass property, is deplorable. UMass has made clear that tudents of color are not safe on this campus and you will not be protected against violent hate crimes. The University must take steps to ensure that the campus is a safe-place for all students, including students of color, women, LBGTQ students, and students with disabilities. That begins with taking a stand in support of Jason Vassell.
The campaign for Justice for Jason has been primarily a local struggle. We had confidently hoped and expected that the fundamental decency and sense of fairness and justice of our liberal Northampton/Amherst community would prevail so that Northwestern District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel would come to her senses and drop the charges. However, this has not happened. It has been over 24 months, and Jason’s legal battle is still in its pre-trial phases. It is clear that now is the time to build sustainable relationships throughout all of our communities and across all of our struggles, to ensure Justice for Jason Vassell.
JOIN THE GRASSROOTS CAMPAIGN TODAY!