The fight to abolish the death penalty goes on
Let's keep fighting.
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
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.
Attached is a CEDP flyer, both in Word and a PDF, as a tribute to Stan.
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.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
- Reports from events last night
- Thoughts about Stan's execution
- Selected news stories
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
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:
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
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
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.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!
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
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
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.
LAURA RAYMOND: NLG National Student Organizer: Here is the press release
from the National Lawyers Guild:
In other news, the NLG's 98 student chapters at law schools across the
country are gearing up for a national day of action against the death
penalty: March 1, 2006 We hope to send a loud message that law students want
abolition. I am assembling organizing kits to be sent out mid-Jan. If you
know of any good resources or have any ideas I'd love to hear them. I
imagine this is a busy time for you so take your time getting back to me.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
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:
- 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:
- 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: