A verbal encounter with police at a Black Lives Matter protest led pregnant activist to 4-year prison sentence

    Brittany Martin, center, wearing striped clothing, confronts police as demonstrators in support of George Floyd march with an escort around downtown Sumter, SC, on May 31, 2020. Micah Green/Associated Press

    (CNN) — Lawyers are pushing for a judge to reconsider the prison sentence of a South Carolina activist who was convicted for “breach of peace,” aggravated over remarks she made to police during racial justice protests in 2020.

    Brittany Martin, a 34-year-old Black woman, is expecting a baby later this year, but in the past months, she has suffered several health complications and lost weight, said Sybil Dione Rosado, one of the attorneys representing her.

    “She has had preterm labor, she’s had several events where she had to be taken on an emergency basis to the hospital,” Rosado told CNN.

    Martin was arrested in Sumter, South Carolina, after taking part in June 2020 protests prompted by the police killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

    Rosado said the verbal encounter that led to Martin’s arrest was along the lines of, “I’m willing to die for the Black, are you willing to die for the blue? This is just a job for you. This is my life.”

    CNN has requested documents detailing Martin’s arrest. Sumter Police Department declined to comment on the case. Tonyia McGirt, a police spokeswoman, said it would be “inappropriate” to comment as the case may be reconsidered.

    Martin’s attorneys said she was not “physically violent or threatening” during the encounter.

    Last year, Martin was indicted on charges of aggravated breach of peace, instigating a riot and five counts of threatening the life of a public official, according to court records.

    Earlier this year a jury found her guilty of one count of high and aggravated breach of peace. In May, a judge sentenced Martin to four years in prison, court records show.

    In South Carolina, breach of peace is a crime punishable by no more than a $500 fine or 30 days in prison. However, aggravated breach of peace is an escalated offense, and the judge hearing the case is charged with handing down a penalty “as is conformable to the common usage and practice in this state, according to the nature of the offense, and not repugnant to the Constitution,” according to state law.

    “She’s spending four years in jail and pregnant and struggling for the life of her baby because she’s loud and Black. It’s an absolute travesty of justice,” Rosado told CNN.

    In an effort to have Martin’s sentence reduced to time served, civil rights attorney Bakari Sellers recently joined Martin’s legal team and filed a memo last month. Sellers is a CNN political analyst and a former representative from South Carolina.

    In his memo requesting a reconsidered sentence, Sellers wrote that reducing Martin’s sentence “will allow her to seek and receive the prenatal care she needs to sustain what has been a high-risk pregnancy, plagued by complications.”

    He alleges the medical care offered by the South Carolina Department of Corrections is “insufficient to address the needs” of Martin’s “fragile pregnancy,” according to the memo. CNN has reached out to the department for comment.

    A reduced sentence, Sellers says, “will adequately reflect the serious nature” of Martin’s actions.

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