Activists demand release of death row inmates

Photo: Jazymne Young/ Hella Black

Hundreds mobilized December 13 for the fourth annual Stanley "Tookie" Williams Legacy Summit at the Huey P. Newton/Bobble Seale Student Lounge at Merritt College. The event marks the four year anniversary when Williams was executed by the State of California, as well as the activism that took place to save him.

Williams co-founded of the original L.A. Crips street organization. He later sought “Redemption,” writing children’s books encouraging youth to avoid gang life, which garnered a Nobel Peace Prize nomination.

Third annual Tookie Williams Legacy Summit (2008)
The summit focused on mobilization actions to abolish both the death penalty and the prison industrial complex.

Barbara Becnel, co-author and friend of Williams, said the state not only killed Williams but “tortured him to death.” It took the executioners 36 minutes to find his veins and for Williams to die of lethal injection. She praised the outpouring of support from the multi-generation, multi-ethnic audience.

“What happened leading up to that day, tens of thousands of people from throughout the state, the country, the world mobilized in an effort to fight for justice,” Becnel said. “This is not going to be a day of pontification. Today is a day to mobilize to organize. We need to mobilize today more than we needed to mobilize four years ago.”

This year’s summit also focused on the liberation of “three innocent men on death row.” Kevin Cooper, Troy Davis and Mumia Abu Jamal.

Wearing a black “I am Troy Davis” t-shirt, Davis’ sister, Martina Correia, introduced herself to the crowd as a death row inmate.

“I am on death row, because that’s where my brother lives,” Correia said. “Not because I’ve committed any crime or murder, because I love him and I’m standing up to tell his story."

Angela Davis at Merritt CollegeAngela Davis, co-founder of Critical Resistance – an abolitionist organization that seeks to end the death penalty – spoke to the international movement to end the death penalty.

“It’s not simply a question of innocence that motivates us,” Davis said of abolishment. The U.S. "is the only so-called industrial democracy in the entire world that continues to use capital punishment as a mode of dealing with people who are convicted of certain crimes.”

“The death penalty is an obsolete form of punishment”, Davis added.

The program then turned to another prominent “public execution:” the New Year’s Eve killing of Oscar Grant by BART Police officer Johannes Mehserle.

Cephus Johnson, known as “Uncle Bobby”, credited the people with the arrest of Mehserle, as well as the retirement of BART Police Chief Gary Gee and Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff.

“It was the community involvement that brought about many of the victories,” Johnson said. “If we stand by and allow it to continue, it would be an injustice.”

The event ended with a preview of “The Justice Chronicles,” a dramatic interpretation of writings by the incarcerated, raising awareness of the plight of U.S. political prisoners.

Correia added, "It might be Troy Davis today, but it could be you tomorrow.”

Read the complete article on

See also: "Bay Area meeting demands release of 3 death row inmates" article in The Militant.

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More