HOUSTON – Hundreds of protesters gathered outside Harris County Jail on Saturday afternoon to demonstrate against incarcerations for misdemeanor offenses.
An estimated 250 people together lifted a paper chain made of 6,800 links. Each represented an individual in jail for a low-level, non-violent crime. Protesters shared their personal stories of being impacted by the Harris County jail system, before breaking the chain into pieces.
The Texas Organizing Project event is part of an ongoing effort to increase voter awareness of key local issues.
"We've been out here all year long educating people on the issues like bail reform," said Tarsha Jackson, who led the event. She also noted cite and release, drug diversion programs, immigration and mental health as key issues.
When it comes to the Harris County District Attorney's Office and Sheriff's Office elections, all candidates have expressed some form of interest in bail reform.
"We want the community to know about a program called 287G," said United We Dream advocate Oscar Hernandez. "This is a program that allows the sheriff's department to work with [Immigration and Customs Enforcement]."
287G has been criticized for leading to a high rate of deportation in Harris County. Sheriff Ron Hickman renewed the program during his tenure. His opponent Ed Gonzalez says he wants it gone.
"We want to lift up these chains and we want to break the chains of a system that has had out community in bondage for centuries," cried Jackson, as the group ripped apart the paper links. While they may have broken the symbolic chain, there's still much change they want to see.
That's why voting is so important, according to Mary Moreno of the Texas Organizing Project.
"If we don't vote, we are endorsing the system," said Moreno.
Fox 26 News contacted the Harris County Sherriff's Office and District Attorney's Office for comment on the protest, but no one from either office has responded.
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