This past weekend I had an opportunity to roll to Austin, Texas. While Governor Rick Perry is on the campaign trail seeking to secure the Republican nomination for the 2012 Presidential race, citizens are continuing to air their disgust with issues plaguing his state. On October 22 the focus was Texas’ system of capital punishment, also known as the “death machine”, which has executed 475 people since 1982, according to the most recent statistics.
Under Gov. Perry’s watch alone, some 236 people have been executed. Hundreds of protestors convened on the north side of the Texas Capitol building for the 12th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty. Joining the crowd was 25 exonerated death row survivors from seven different states who all spoke about why their continuing to fight against the death penalty.
All of the exonerees are members of Witness to Innocence, the nation’s only organization made up of, organized by and for exonerated death row survivors and their families. Witness to Innocence was instrumental in the abolition of the death penalty in Illinois in 2011, New Mexico in 2009 and New Jersey in 2007. According to their website, their members bring “a human face to the death penalty, illuminating the unfairness and immorality of capital punishment.”
Determined to send a clear message and bring further awareness to the cause, protestors lined the streets of Austin and marched for blocks. With police surrounding them, they held decorated signs and made chants such as “Rick Perry you can’t hide. We charge you with homicide.” The march stopped for a moment in front of the Governor’s multi-million dollar mansion on Colorado Street. “We want to shut this whole d—n system down!” said Gloria Rubac of the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement.
Nation of Islam Student Minister Robert Muhammad of Houston served witnessed the executions of Texas death row inmates Odell Barnes and Shaka Sankofa, a.k.a. Gary Graham. “I’m here to keep on fighting because I am Troy Davis, I am Shaka Sankofa, I am Todd Willingham, I am Odell Barnes. They have to be given voice by us,” Mr. Muhammad said to marchers.
Read more of my coverage in an upcoming edition of The Final Call Newspaper.
(Follow Brother Jesse Muhammad on Twitter @BrotherJesse)