Thursday, November 17, 2005

LA TOWN HALL MEETING FOR STAN DRAWS 300 PEOPLE

From Dana Blanchard: The Save Tookie committee in Los Angeles organized a fantastic town hall meeting on November 15, at the Bethal AME Church in South Central LA, which was attended by about 300 people. The meeting was cosponsored by a lot of different groups, including the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, the Nation of Islam, Death Penalty Focus and a variety of groups working on gang intervention, including Venus 2000 and Community Call to Action.

With only a week to build the Town Hall meeting we really tried to get the word out. Barbara Becnel was scheduled to come down from the Bay Area to speak, but she missed her flight, and we had her call in instead.

All the speakers talked about racism and the criminal injustice system, not just Tookie's case. Minister Tony Mohammed spoke about how our country was founded on slavery and racism. He said we have given clemency to our country by working to change America for the better, and Tookie is part of that redemptive process.

Vicki Lindsey from Project Cry No More, whose son was killed by gang violence, spoke at the meeting and said she supported clemency for Tookie. This is an important development, since many people still see Stan as the leader of the Crips--we need to make sure people know that organizations opposed to gang violence are speaking out to save him.

Other people spoke about the struggles of the 1960s and 70s, including the Black Panthers and the government's attempts to silence them. All of the speakers got thunderous ovations.

At least four people in the audience are key people in Tookie's autobiography, and his ex-wife Bonnie has been coming to the planning meetings, and spoke from the floor in the discussion. Overall, it was a huge success.

We had our first Save Tookie committee meetings a week earlier, on November 7 and November 8 in South LA. There were planning meetings, and we divided into working groups. Both had about 40-50 people in attendance. Out of the planning meetings, we scheduled a series of planned actions, press conferences and the town hall meeting.

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