During the pandemic, many advocates and people who have family members incarcerated have been making sure that elected officials hear their voices — and their car horns.
As a way to stay safe and keep social distancing guidelines in order, stationary protests have turned into vehicle caravans, and today, a New Jersey nonprofit has scheduled Thursday a funeral procession in remembrance of prisoners who have died from COVID-19, News 12 New Jersey reports.
The nonprofit, The New Jersey Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement (NJCAIC), has called Thursday’s 11 AM – 1 PM demonstration “The #SayTheirNames Funeral Procession,” with the hashtag circulating on social media this morning. Each car participating in the caravan will circle around the War Memorial in Trenton, NJ., while carrying and displaying a name of a prisoner who has died.
“The #SayTheirNames Funeral Procession aims to pay respect to all those who have needlessly passed away due to government inaction and to pressure Gov Murphy and the DOC to act before more people die,” The NJCIAC wrote on its website.
“We demand that people are released and conditions are improved immediately.”
As of Thursday, 43 inmates in New Jersey have died from COVID-19 complications.
Participants in today’s procession are in agreement with NJCAIC’s message, advocating that Gov. Phil Murphy and the state’s legislature “release low level offenders, those whose sentences are almost up, or those who are sick or elderly.”
“These are our mothers and fathers, sisters and sons, friends and neighbors and human beings who deserve more,” NJCAIC declared on their website.
Across the country, communities are coming together with similar inspiration to use their cars as vehicles for their voices in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Earlier this week, the Daily Bulletin reported on two groups of protesters who drove around in circles around both California Institution for Men and California Institution for Women prisons in Chino, while honking and waving handmade signs.
One of the posters declared, “YOU CAN’T GET WELL IN A CELL!”
Last Sunday, hundreds of family members of prisoners in Texas gathered outside the Governor’s Mansion to protest the growing threat of COVID-19 in state prisons, a local NBC affiliate covered.
The protesters swarmed the grounds, both on foot and by car, some wearing shirts that say “Incarcerated lives matter.”
According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, “36 Texas inmates and seven prison staff have died from COVID-19,” the NBC affiliate detailed.
Moreover, in late April, dozens of drivers rounded the Indiana Westville Correctional Facility, honking and carrying signs demanding better healthcare and the release of nonviolent prisoners, NBC Chicago reports.
Prisoners inside the facility were visible from several windows, watching the caravan, and they could be seen and heard shouting and clapping from across the grounds in NBC Chicago’s videos.
“I’m here trying to get justice for all the inmates up here,” Misty Weikel, a protester told NBC Chicago reporters from her car. She explained that she drove 2 hours to get to the facility.
A sign taped to her car read “Praying for inmates and guards.”
Additional Reading: Second Wave of Virus Feared if Jails, Prisons are Left Unprotected
Andrea Cipriano is a TCR staff writer