City protest draws 100 over parole ban
By Rachael Scarborough King
Nov. 27, 2007
NEW HAVEN — A crowd of about 100 people gathered outside the Whalley Avenue jail Monday to protest a statewide parole ban for violent offenders that the governor’s office put in place in response to the triple homicide in Cheshire in July.
Participants at the rally called the ban a racist move that results in punishing people who were not involved in the Cheshire murders.
With the state legislature scheduled to hold public hearings today on proposals to reclassify home invasions as violent crimes and build new prisons, among other changes to state crime statutes, organizers called on people to travel to Hartford to express their opposition.
Two men who were out of prison on parole at the time, Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes, are charged with murdering Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her 11- and 17-year-old daughters during a home invasion in July.
Protesters Monday chanted and held signs with slogans like “Books Not Bars,” “Schools Not Jails” and “Their ‘Reform’ Ruins Lives.” Among the speakers were leaders from local community organizations, state Rep. William Dyson, D-New Haven, and several people who said they have family members currently in prison.
Barbara Fair, one of the event’s lead organizers, said she was “very pleased” with the turnout Monday.
“People came out in the middle of the evening and the wet and rainy (weather),” Fair said. “They still made it out because they know it’s an important issue for them.”
Fair said that she is organizing drivers to take people to Hartford for today’s hearing at 1 p.m.
Sheldon Tucker told the crowd he would have liked to see more in attendance.
“Let’s not come out one night and then we go back to our regular lives until the next big thing happens,” Tucker said. “I’m so glad everyone came out here, but I should not be able to see the corner (from the middle of the block).”
Greg Smith, co-chairman of the New Haven Democratic Town Committee in Ward 2, said that those at the protest should send a message to their state and local representatives through voting.
“My concern is that at the end of the day, it’s your votes that are really going to make the difference,” Smith said. “As much as I love to see a lot of people come out and voice your opinion, we still need to see you at the polls.”
Two of those in the audience Monday, Nitza De La Paz and Veronica Matos, said that they have been directly affected by the parole ban.
De La Paz said that her husband is in jail after having been scheduled to be released Oct.1, and Matos said that her boyfriend is in a similar situation.
“It’s affecting me emotionally, financially, and it’s frustrating,” De La Paz said.
Matos said that her boyfriend was originally supposed to be released at the beginning of November.
“We have no control over everything that’s going on, all because two guys did something that was wrong,” she said. “Why should (my boyfriend) have to pay for it?”