The Fight Goes On
STAN WAS EXECUTED, BUT THE FIGHT GOES ON
Stan Tookie Williams was executed early this morning after Governor Schwarzenegger refused to grant Stan clemency. A number of actions took place yesterday, including a protest at the gates of San Quentin, and demonstrations and vigils in Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., New York City and others. Thousands of people condemned this execution. There is no doubt that this is a blow to our side. We lost someone who not only showed redemption was possible, but was living his life, confined in a cell the size of a bathroom and doing more to lead kids away from joining gangs than any lawmaker, politician or criminal justice court.
In killing Stan, they're trying to kill the hope he has inspired in so many that they could have a second chance--that they could ever turn their lives around. Now that Stan is dead, the ruthlessness of our politicians and our criminal injustice system is laid bare. It's ugly--real ugly. One need only read the governor's statement on why he denied Stan clemency to see just how ugly.
We must keep up the fight. We must use our sense of outrage to fuel our continued mobilization. We need to remember those we have lost to capital punishment and fight on in their names--Stan Tookie Williams, Wesley Baker, Frances Newton, Napoleon Beasley, Tyrone X Gilliam, Shaka Sankofa, Karla Faye Tucker and so many others.
And we must use the broad, multiracial fightback we were able to build in support of Stan to spark the efforts to win a moratorium in California, and to get rid of the death penalty altogether. That is the best way to remember Stan and all the others who have been killed by the state; it's to fight on.
If you aren't already, please get involved. Work with the Campaign to End the Death Penalty--join a chapter closest to you. Go to our website at http://www.nodeathpenalty.org and click on the "get involved" button to find a listing of our chapters. If no chapters are close to where you live, consider starting one. Send me an e-mail if you are interested.
You can download a CEDP flyer, both in Word and a PDF, as a tribute to Stan, here:
Folks should download it and make copies to put around on your campus and in your community. On the Word document, there is a space for you to write in your own local contact phone numbers and e-mails.
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CONTENTS - Reports from events last night - Thoughts about Stan's execution - Selected news stories
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SAN QUENTIN - Phil Gasper
The scene outside San Quentin last night was amazing. People had started arriving at the prison gates in the early afternoon, soon after Governor Schwarzenegger announced that he was denying clemency for Stan Tookie Williams. By the time I arrived, shortly after 8:00 pm, the crowd had swelled to 1500, and for the next four hours, people kept coming. Two thousand, three thousand-after that it was impossible to keep count.
Young and old, blacks, whites, Latinos and Asians, Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, socialists, and just plain outraged, all made the long trek to protest the legal lynching of an African American man who had atoned for the crimes that he did commit and who was being killed for those that he did not. A handful of right-wing provocateurs, hoping to provoke a clash with their message of racism and hate, were surrounded and quickly pushed to the margins, where they could not disrupt the rally.
There was great sadness that the fight to save Stan's life and prevent another senseless death had been lost. But unlike most other executions I've protested outside San Quentin, the mood was not somber but angry and defiant. One electric speaker after another addressed the crowd. Joan Baez sang and declared, "Tonight is a planned, efficient, calculated, antiseptic, cold-blooded murder." Angela Davis praised Stan and Mumia Abu-Jamal as the most eloquent voices against the death penalty and placed them in the context of black radical struggles. Exonerated California death-row inmate, and former Black Panther, Shujaa Graham drew the parallels between his life and Tookie's, and explained how he had escaped execution in spite of the system, not because of it.
Read more at: http://www.counterpunch.com/
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Nick Chin
I'm proud to have stood in front of the Department of Justice and confronted this country's death machine. There are no words to express the sadness as the state of California murders Tookie Williams. With his denial of clemency, Arnold has chosen to align with Republican agenda: with the death penalty, with the war, with the Texecutioner himself George W. Bush. But this continues beyond Tookie. This is about the fight against capital punishment as a whole, and for us, particularly the cases in Maryland. We must continue the movement against the death penalty and be sure that those in power pay a price for their decisions.
Some ideas that have been floated are holding a press conference with some of the forces out at the rally tonight and to conduct a solidarity funeral march. People should email their thoughts on this and we will debate what makes sense at our meeting this Wednesday. This is an incredibly important meeting. Nationally, the Campaign has offered to help with the press conference but those of us here, old and new, need to think through what makes sense as a next step after this execution. Finally, I want to be sure people are aware how conscious a method of oppression this decision was. In his denial, the Governor points to the dedication of one of Tookie's books for his decision: "The dedication of Williams' book 'Life in Prison' casts significant doubt on his personal redemption... Specifically the book is dedicated to 'Nelson Mandela, Angela Davis, Malcolm X, Assata Shakur, Geronimo Ji Jaga Pratt, Ramona Africa, John Africa, Leonard Peltier, Dhoruba Al-Mujahid, George Jackson, Mumia Abu-Jamal, and the countless other men and women behind bars.' The mix of individuals on this list is curious. Most have violent pasts and some have been convicted of committing heinous murders, including the killing of law enforcement." We stand in the tradition of those who have fought, from both sides of the prison walls. this is our movement, and we should see this as nothing short of an outright attack on those of us who believe in humanity, redemption, and social justice.
SEATTLE - Nick Hart
Over 40 people showed up in Seattle at the Garfield Community Center to see Redemption. The event was attended by Lewis C, a former Crip who knew Tookie and was saved by him. He spoke about Tookie's innocence and the need to continue his good works. The film was followed by an open discussion in which activists spoke about the importance of struggle to win justice and next steps we can take to honor Tookie, continue the fight against the death penalty and gang violence. Afterwards we held a candlelight vigil outside the community center and chanted "they say lynching, we say no! Stanley Williams off death row!" Local TV stations KOMO and KCPQ filmed the vigil (and chanting) live, as well as interviewed several activists who put the event together. KIRO radio was also present for interviews and KBCS radio hosted a call-in show. Some people saw the vigil on the news and came down to join us.
SANTA CRUZ - Marilyn Strayer
In Santa Cruz, we held a candlelight vigil from 8pm until just after midnight. We had about 75 people throughout the evening. Several people joined us when the heard about the vigil on TV. Our local newspaper came by to do a short interview.
LAMBERTVILLE, N.J. - Matthew Pillischer
Last night, a small crowd gathered in Lambertville, NJ, in the freezing cold, to show our support for Stan Tookie Williams, and to protest his execution. Signs read: "At 12:01am, California will kill a peace activist," and "Tookie was redeemed-- Shame on you, Terminator." Overall, responses from passers-by were good. Occasional shouts along the lines of, "An eye for any eye," were heard, but those who stopped to engage in conversation were all supportive of us and Tookie. I work as a social worker with youth with behavioral problems, ages 5-15, in the poorest communities of Trenton, NJ. I see the effects of gang life on these children every day. We need more people like Stan Williams, who these children know and respect, who came from "thug life," to be able to show that transformation and self-education and change are all possible. We need people like Stan to show that there are alternatives, that there are ways to get out, ways to redeem yourself, ways to live life to the fullest even under the most horrifying of circumstances. What kind of a sign do we show these children when we execute this man? Do we show them there is hope? Or is it truly a sign that there is never a possibility to change for the better? That there is no reward for positive change. That hope for positive change is executed by the state. Williams' execution will certainly make my job, and the job of all social workers, more difficult in already overwhelming circumstances. If Stan Williams is granted clemency, he can continue to give us tools necessary to battle gang violence and the self-destruction of many of today's youth.
MICHIGAN CITY, INDIANA - Gail Hutchinson
I had a small group hold a candlelight vigil at my house at the time of the murder. We cried, prayed and vowed to start a Northwest Indiana Chapter of your organization. Please, if you could, post my email -- firstname.lastname@example.org -- as a contact for individuals interested in joining. Gail Hutchinson, Michigan City, Indiana - Home of the execution chamber at Indiana State Prison
CHICAGO - Alice Kim
About 25 of us gathered at the Federal Plaza last night after we heard the news that Schwarzenegger had denied clemency to Tookie. Holding signs and candles, we spoke out against this legal lynching. We refused to allow the state of California to proceed with pre-meditated murder in silence. As we protested and expressed our outrage, we chanted, "Arnold Schwarzenegger, you can't hide, we charge you with homicide!"
Exonerated Illinois death row prisoners Darby Tillis and Madison Hobley talked to the media about the lethal flaws in the death penalty. "Tookie didn't get a fair trial," said Darby Tillis, "And I just don't understand the court system overlooking this." "I know personally that the system is not perfect, that it's accident-prone," Madison Hobley told reporters. "I know the courts are not fair. Today is a sad day." Following the protest, a group of us got together at my house to honor Tookie and to stay up together for the duration. It was hard to fathom what was about to take place. We wanted to be there for Tookie and for each other. We fought hard to save Tookie. And despite our efforts, the State of California was about to proceed with their pre-meditated murder. We vowed to keep fighting for Tookie and others like him-Frances Newton, Wesley Baker and Girvies Davis-who lost their precious lives to state sanctioned murder.
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THOUGHTS ABOUT STAN'S EXECUTION
DARBY TILLIS, exonerated death row prisoner: I'm angry as hell. Disappointed in the system. It's time that the community begin to scrutinize the justice system and the death penalty. To the custodians of the judicial system-you have failed a generation. Long live Tookie-Tookie lives.
MADISON HOBLEY, exonerated death row prisoner: This is another travesty here in America. This shows the world that we're a nation of hypocrisy. This is just a bloodthirsty nation to me. I feel very disappointed and beyond belief that we're still talking about execution knowing that the system is flawed and knowing that the case against him was flawed. Kill the head and the body will fall, that's what they think."
JACKIE CASIMER: Being a Black mother of a male child, my only child, I'm saddened about the decision that Arnold Schwarzenegger made. How would he feel if it was his child facing this-and knowing that his child was innocent. When they go into the court system, they say the just want the facts. Welll, the facts were ignored in Stan's case. We have a failing judicial system. How can they sleep at night knowing that they murdered Stan. We all make mistakes in our life because we're human. Maybe Stan has sinned, but the crimes for which he was convicted, weren't crimes that he committed. We're here in Chicago fighting for justice. We will continue to protest against the death penalty. Every woman that's a mother should stand up against the death penalty. Stan's legacy will live on.
GLORIA JOHNSON: I'm hurt. I feel that the justice system failed Stan and failed all of us. This man has done so much why they want to take his life-it's barbaric. No man has the right to take another man's life. An Stan has so much to help kids around the world staying out of gangs. Now Gov Schwarzenegger has Stan's blood on his hands. This has got to stop. We cannot have another person put to death by the hands of the state. The churches need to come together and step up to the plate to stop this injustice. They need to walk the walk. I'm just hurt. As a mother of a former death row inmate, I have compassion for Mrs. Williams. No mother wants to bring a child into this world and see her child die before she does. You expect your child to bury you, not the other way around. I'm praying that she continue to be a strong proud black woman. Stan's life will be lived on through the books that he's written. May these books continue to lead our children in the direction that they should be going.
INAYYAH: I sit here to night in tears and reading through the list of books he has written. I have become so close to Tookie in the past two months. I am with a group from Connecticut. I have seen such outpouring of pure love for him and sincere care. I can say this was such a very senseless thing for this California governor to do. I will do all that I can on this end to help you to get the word out about abolition of the death penalty. I pray for you all each day. It is nice to meet you. May God bless you for your wonderful efforts.
PRANAV JANI: Lies, hypocrisy, racism, double standards -- they want to keep hammering away at two ideas: Tookie Williams is a brutal murderer, and his transformation is a sham. They got their execution, but they still need to whip up the hatred. Why? So that they can set the stage for the next Black man who's executed. They want to build on the momentum of the Schwarznegger rejection of clemency. That's why CNN, Fox, and MSNBC keep showing the same images of a young, huge-muscled Tookie with the handlebar mustache, and a full Afro. The pictures of an older Tookie with glasses and white hair appear, but not as prominently. They all interview Lora Owens, stepmother of Albert Owens, whom Tookie allegedly killed. They all say that the protestors don't care about the victims and their families. But you know what? They moved to Lora because Linda Owens, Albert's widow, came out with a statement on Friday supporting clemency for Tookie: "I, Linda Owens want to build upon Mr. Williams' peace initiative. I invite Mr. Williams to join me in sending a message to all communities that we should all unite in peace. This position of peace would honor my husband's memory and Mr. Williams work." I guess victims' families' opinions don't matter when they don't fit the stereotype. And I guess the Asian victims' families don't matter at all. Has anyone seen or heard interviews with the Asian families? Then there's the double standard around clemency. On the one hand, the idea's that redemption and transformation don't matter a bit; it's all about guilt or innocence in committing the crime. But when you read Schwarzenegger's comments, it's not that apologies don't matter, but that they only matter when you want them to. So Schwarznegger said: "Is Williams' redemption complete and sincere, or is it just a hollow promise? Without an apology and atonement for these senseless and brutal killings, there can be no redemption." Would Tookie be off death row is he admitted to the murders and repented? Isn't is more likely that the bloodthirsty supporters of the death penalty would say, "His apology is hollow, just to get clemency"? Of course, what Tookie does apologize for, over and over, is founding the Crips -- but that doesn't seem to matter at all. The right wing wants to build on their momentum. But we've got to build on ours. The movement made a huge push and got Tookie's case on the front page news, everywhere you turned. We didn't win this time, and as I write it looks like the machinery of death is churning on... But we will win, we will end this brutal and racist policy of death, and when we do, we'll remember the role that Tookie played in making the world a better place.
ABE BONOWITZ, director of Citizens United for Alternatives to the Death Penalty: Standing vigil via CNN here in Dayton, Ohio, working up a reminder that on December 14 at 6:00 PM EST, John Nixon is scheduled to be killed by the people of Mississippi in revenge for the murder of Virginia Tucker. Nixon is 77 years old and has been on death row almost 20 years. Larry King Live featured a panel on the whole Tookie thing, but that was followed by the first interview with Richard Pryor's wife since Pryor died on Saturday. The first thing she did was add her emphatic call for clemency for Tookie, speaking both for herself, "and for Richard - he would have wanted that." Carry on!
LAETITIA: I'm French. I'm sorry for my English. I wake up this morning, i switch on my computer, I've read my mail and in few minutes, they will kill a man. Again, I don't understand, i cry. I'm really shocked, why why they kill a man? What for?
ADRIAN ZUPP: Thank you for all your hard and passionate work. Take heart that you rallied so many people and invigorated a spirit of compassion across the country. And Tookie himself must have known how many people cared: both about him and the issue of state-sanctioned murder. To be blunt, Gov. S is a dim lowlife. His life's deeds are testament to that. But he is just one part of the larger problem of an undemocratic political system that lets the privileged and famous climb to high office while the so-called "average person" stands little chance of doing likewise. The death penalty has to go. It is cold-blooded murder and the governor of California is himself a cold-blooded murderer like so many governors before him. It's a long and incremental battle but it will be won.
A.R. RODRIGUEZ: Who is the Governor to say that Tookie didn't redeem himself? How would he know? Is he his maker? I wrote the Governor yesterday, and I told him that him and all of his political buddies have just defeated their own purpose. They think that they are punishing him by killing him...when it's anything but. Tookie didn't meet his maker as a judge, he met his maker as a friend, and this government put Tookie in a place where people like them can never hurt him again. They are the ones that will have to live with his death on their conscious for the rest of their lives...here and in eternity. My hear cries out for losing him on this earth, but we have just gained an angel whose message will be louder than ever. We all know where Tookie is now, and we all know where Arnold and his buddies are going to end up...so who has the last laugh? Let's strive to make Tookie our last defeat...
CONOR KENNELLY: It is upsetting to hear the news. It got a lot of coverage on the news here [in Ireland]. As an xmas present for my family I've decided to make another donation to the campaign. Be in touch and keep up the good fight.
PHYLLIS: Hi Carol and Others, It's over, I am Sad, Tired, but alive. I hoped until the last moment. I put all the lights on in my home, set my timer and prayed. I played my Gil Scott-Heron CD and put the song on repeat called : "Did you hear what they said" This is for you Tookie! This is for Us All! Love, Light and Peace Always, Let's Never Forget to Remember! Phyllis.
DEB S. BARTON: Maybe folks should be reminded of what a piece of filth the Governor is himself. The man's a moral coward who signed that death certificate and then didn't have the balls to view the results of his actions, and spent a fair part of his acting career being infamous for treating women like pieces of meat. What else can you expect from such a moral degenerate? He's going back to movies, Terminator 3 is supposed to be in the pipeline, we've heard over in the UK. Maybe we should make it known that his films will be boycotted and cinemas that show his films in the future can expect pickets outside their picture houses.
LEE WENGRAF: It's hard to put thoughts together right now, but one thing that struck me in recent weeks was how determined Stan was to remain unbroken and undefeated. The way he refused to back down when they were hell-bent on seeking revenge sends a powerful message about the kind of courage and convictions Stan had. He refused to let them destroy the possibility of redemption, to get away with their justification for the whole rotten death penalty system. His refusal to back down arms us for what lies ahead.
I was also struck by how many people cared so deeply for Stan and what he stood for, the way people again and again would come up to me when I was petitioning and want to know why the Governor was doing this, what they could do about it. People threw themselves into this fight; I met people who had contacted the governor constantly. Others who were moved to tears and outrage by how vicious the execution was. In NYC, although we never had huge numbers on the streets, the kind of responsiveness was very moving. We had events and actions to stop the execution every day here for the past 2 weeks. Several thousand signatures were sent to Scwarzenegger, and many more made calls, sent emails and wrote faxes. I think a number of people have emerged from this fight wanting to keep on pushing. One note that has made the past few days easier to take is the breakthrough in the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal: at least for some of us, this news gives us something solid to hold onto and go forward, and the determination we've seen for Tookie from people around us this past month.
DEE: They say that prisons are for rehabilitation, but I think not. The execution of Tookie Williams proves that. If an inmate can be rehabilitated, why would he still be executed. This was an act of revenge. It's going to put a message in the minds of inmates, that it doesn't matter if you rehabilitate yourself, society will still punish you. Tookie was a role model for young people. What statement has society given them? That it's legal to murder someone? It's legal to strap them on a gurney and shoot lethal drugs in their veins? I think that's the statement they have gotten.
LEAH MERJIL: I too am sad and disgusted, outraged and disappointed. I prayed all night that if there was no last minute reprieve, that Tookie have peace, comfort and no fear as he faced the end of his life. I hate the death penalty and just feel so helpless. How can we make MORE of a difference and somehow change the way things are??
RAFAEL JESUS GONZALEZ: The vigil is over; Stanley Tookie Williams has been pronounced dead in San Quentin, California, and my heart is heavy. With his death one more piece of our decency is eroded away; may what his legacy gives us redeem our humanity as a nation. It will be a hard path; the governments insists on its right to torture, it demands the right to persecute immigrant workers, every day it shreds our civil liberties and rights, every minute it wages war and kills people in foreign lands, sacrifices our youth, fills the prisons and the death-chambers. The times are dark and what light there is we must nurture in our hearts to light the torch of freedom and take away the shame of our acquiesce to injustice, to tyranny, to villainy. Let us nurture that light and share it with another or we perish in the darkness of our cowardice, our despair, or worse, of our inaction and indifference.
KEVIN NEEL: Arnold's statement brings us back to principle -- to his real base -- to the long term interests of the ruling class. Stan was killed because he was becoming dangerous -- as someone who had already become a statesman against the death penalty, the criminal justice system, and the deep-rooted racism at the heart of capitalist America. He is inspired by the heroes in the struggle against racist injustice here and around the world, including revolutionaries. And he in turn is inspiring tens of thousands (or more). He wasn't yet a political activist per se, nor had he broken completely with black nationalism, but he was moving in those directions, and reaching out in a way that, e.g., Mumia doesn't appear to.
Arnold and co. calculated that the danger of allowing him to live and evolve was greater than the danger of horrifying those already moved by him. Most of those had mostly been moved to social action, not primarily political action, and Arnold hopes that by masking this execution in questions of true redemption, political questions will be weakened.
But he made one mistake -- revealing the real intentions, by showing that he equates the struggle for justice with common criminal activity, with gang violence. We should use that mistake as an opening everywhere we talk about Stan -- explain who George Jackson is, why the ruling class hates him and Stan, and what real legacy we must uphold.
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SELECTED NEWS STORY
- AN EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT OF STANLEY TOOKIE WILLIAMS' EXECUTION
>From the San Francisco Chronicle: The execution of convicted murderer Stanley Tookie Williams was a defiant, determined and messy affair -- surprising right up to the bitter end, just like his unfortunate life. From the moment five guards walked him into the death chamber at 11:59 p.m. until 36 minutes later when Williams' heart stopped beating, the 51-year-old former gangster and his supporters tried their hardest to get through his final minutes on earth on their own terms. And they succeeded, as well as could be done under the circumstances -- and certainly more than in any of the 11 other executions since 1992, when San Quentin Prison's lime-green death chamber was put back into action after a 25-year hiatus. All of the other men killed by lethal injection lay so quietly on the gurney as they were strapped down and poisoned that, except for a few small movements, it was hard to tell if they were even awake. Even in the two gassings at San Quentin that preceded the injections, Robert Alton Harris and David Mason faced their ends stoically. Williams was different.
Read the full article at: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/12/13/MNGCKG79QJ16. DTL
- THEY MURDERED A PEACEMAKER
>From Socialist Worker: The state of California rewarded redemption with cold-blooded murder--justified with a press release and carried out in the dead of night... The former leader of the Crips in Los Angeles has spent the last decade of his life as one of the most powerful and articulate voices warning youth against violence, crime and prison. Gang truces negotiated along the lines of his "Protocol for Peace" have saved lives across the U.S. But it didn't matter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who refused Stan's plea for clemency. Or to the state and federal judges, who turned a blind eye to the evidence of racism and bigotry in Stan's capital murder trial two-and-a-half decades ago. Or all the pro-death penalty politicians and media blowhards who calculated that Stan's death was in their interests. They claimed that Stan's redemption couldn't be real. But it's their death penalty system that is irredeemably barbaric and unjust. This was the legal lynching of a Black man to advance political careers--an age-old tradition in American politics.
Read the full article at: http://www.socialistworker.org/2005-2/569/569_01_Stan.shtml
- EUROPEANS OUTRAGED AT SCHWARZENEGGER
>From the Associated Press: California's execution of Stanley Tookie Williams on Tuesday outraged many in Europe who regard the practice as barbaric, and politicians in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's native Austria called for his name to be removed from a sports stadium in his hometown... Capital punishment is illegal throughout the European Union, and many Europeans consider state-sponsored executions to be barbaric. Those feelings were amplified in the case of Williams, due to the apparent remorse they believe the Crips gang co-founder showed by writing children's books about the dangers of gangs and violence.
Read the full article at: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051213/ap_on_re_eu/europe_williams_execution_1