Siwatu-Salama Ra

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Siwatu-Salama Ra is an environmental and racial justice activist from Detroit, Michigan. She was imprisoned at Huron Valley Correctional Facility for assault and firearm felonies.[1][2][3][4][5][6] Her case has been widely cited as an example of a racist justice system in the United States and highlighting the issues with mandatory minimum sentencing.[1][2][7][8][9][10][5]


At 19, Ra opposed Marathon Oil Refinery and the Detroit Renewable Power trash incinerator.[2] She is co-director of East Michigan Environmental Action Council (EMEAC).[2][7][8][8]


Channell Harvey brought her daughter to Ra's mother's home and Ra asked her to leave.[2] Parties in the case dispute the events which led to Ra's arrest and imprisonment after this event.[2][10][11]

Ra claims Harvey then rammed Ra's parked car while Ra's 2-year-old daughter was playing in the vehicle.[1] Ra's legal team claims Harvey was trying to hit Ra and her family with the car. Ra then pointed an non loaded legally owned gun which she owned a conceal carry permit for. Michigan is an open carry state.[1][2][10]l.[7][8][5]

Harvey claims after a verbal argument, Ra went to her car where she removed her toddler and retrieved a pistol, she then cocked the pistol and pointed it at Harvey, at which point Harvey accidentally hit Ra's vehicle while attempting to drive away.


The jury focused on why the gun was in the car, an issue not presented to them during the case.[2]

Ra was found guilty of assaulting Harvey but was acting in self-defense toward Harvey’s daughter, the jury did not believe that Ra's fear was enough to warrant her actions.[2] She was convicted of a felony firearm conviction with a mandatory minimum sentence of two years.[1] The jury of the trial were not informed that the gun charges carried a mandatory prison sentence.[2][7][8][11]

The judge Thomas Hathaway, was unable to grant a request to postpone Ra’s sentence until after she gave birth due to her high risk pregnancy because of the mandatory minimum sentence law.[2][7][12]


Ra was incarcerated in Huron Valley Correctional Facility, a prison with overcrowding problems and structural issues.[2][13] Ra was shackled to her bed during a vaginal exam.[2][10] Ra gave birth to her son at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, in Ann Arbor, MI, in the presence of four armed guards.[14] She was not allowed to contact her family during the birth and was not allowed to breastfeed her son. After 48 hours, her son was taken from her and temporarily put into the care of her relatives.[1][2][9][14]

Ra's post-conviction appeal is being handled by Wade Fink Law. [15]

Criticism of the case[edit]

The jury did not believe that Ra had an honest and reasonable belief that deadly force was necessary to defend herself or her family. This has been widely seen as racially motivated opinion and that the law sets a different standard of self defense for black people.[2][7][8][9][11][12][16]

“Siwatu should be home getting ready to deliver her baby, and being with her family. Instead, she is suffering and isolated being punished for protecting herself, her child and [her] mother. This is a shameful, shameful reality, and it’s clear that we need to challenge a criminal justice system that would try a pregnant black woman for upholding ‘stand your ground’ laws and her Second Amendment rights.” Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of Black Lives Matter.[2]

“No one should be imprisoned for exercising their right to self-defense." National Rifle Association.[2]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Why a Michigan environmental activist will likely give birth in prison". Retrieved 2018-06-17.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q "She defended herself with a legally owned (and unloaded) gun. Now she's facing two years in prison". Vox. Retrieved 2018-06-17.
  3. ^ Cwiek, Sarah. "Is this pregnant activist in prison for defending herself and her family?". Retrieved 2018-06-18.
  4. ^ Perkins, Tom. "Here's how to support imprisoned activist Siwatu-Salama Ra". Detroit Metro Times. Retrieved 2018-06-18.
  5. ^ a b c "Siwatu-Salama Ra's Self-Defense Claims, and the Other Side of the Story | National Review". National Review. 2018-05-10. Retrieved 2018-06-18.
  6. ^ "A Q&A with recently-freed Detroit activist Siwatu-Salama Ra". Detroit Metro Times. Retrieved 2018-11-21.
  7. ^ a b c d e f "Finley: Free Siwatu-Salama Ra". Detroit News. Retrieved 2018-06-18.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Cwiek, Sarah. "Is this pregnant activist in prison for defending herself and her family?". Retrieved 2018-06-18.
  9. ^ a b c Perkins, Tom. "Here's how to support imprisoned activist Siwatu-Salama Ra". Detroit Metro Times. Retrieved 2018-06-18.
  10. ^ a b c d "Siwatu-Salama Ra: The Photos from the Incident | National Review". National Review. 2018-05-15. Retrieved 2018-06-18.
  11. ^ a b c Perkins, Tom. "How a flawed criminal justice system put a pregnant Detroit activist behind bars". Detroit Metro Times. Retrieved 2018-06-18.
  12. ^ a b Perkins, Tom. "Michigan prison violating pregnant Muslim's religious rights, lawyers say". Detroit Metro Times. Retrieved 2018-06-18.
  13. ^ "Democracy Now: On this Earth Day, demand freedom for Siwatu-Salama Ra". Retrieved 2018-06-18.
  14. ^ a b Gessen, Masha (2018-11-21). "The Injustice of Siwatu Ra's Imprisonment and the Relentless Logic of Mass Incarceration". ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2019-03-04.
  15. ^ Fink, Wade. "Ra's Post-Conviction Appeal". Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  16. ^ Branigin, Anne. "After Standing Her Ground, a Young Mother and Environmental Activist Could Be Forced to Give Birth in Prison". The Root. Retrieved 2018-06-18.