- Associated Press - Friday, March 25, 2016

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) - Activists and co-workers of a young man who died behind bars after he was unable to post $100 bail protested Friday outside the Hillsborough County jail and demanded answers about his death.

Jeffrey Pendleton, 26, was being held on a marijuana possession charge when he died Sunday. The Manchester Police Department is investigating Pendleton’s death, and the state medical examiner’s office says it is awaiting toxicology reports to determine the cause of death.

The Fight for $15 campaign, which advocates for a higher minimum wage, organized Friday’s protest, which included about 20 people chanting phrases such as “no justice, no peace” and holding signs reading “Justice for Jeffrey.”

The group stood along a sidewalk outside the courthouse, receiving occasional supportive honks, before marching to the front of the courthouse for about 15 minutes of chanting. The protesters were unable to enter the courthouse despite repeated attempts.

Pendleton worked at a Nashua Burger King and recently participated in a Fight for $15 protest against low wages.

“We’re all just here to know what happened and why it happened,” said Andy Fontaine, a former co-worker of Pendleton’s.

Fontaine, 19, said Pendleton was an outgoing co-worker who rarely talked about his personal life or mentioned that he was homeless. Fontaine said he thinks it’s unfair Pendleton faced a $100 bail for his marijuana possession charge.

State Rep. Renny Cushing, a Hampton Democrat, stopped by the protest and said Pendleton’s case underscores the argument for decriminalizing marijuana, an effort that’s repeatedly failed to pass at the Statehouse.

“Possession of marijuana shouldn’t be a death sentence,” Cushing said.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire previously represented Pendleton in cases against Nashua and Hudson after he was arrested for panhandling and selling on state property without a license. Pendleton won judgments worth $7,600 from Hudson and $10,000 from Nashua.

Rep. Elizabeth Edwards, a Democrat from Manchester, also attended the protest and attempted to help the protesters enter the courthouse. She said Pendleton’s case highlights the need for prison reform and fair sentencing.

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