Taking our message to Europe

By: Mike Stark

Over 50,000 activists gathered in Paris on November 12-15 for the European Social Forum (ESF) to discuss the struggle for a better world--and the Campaign to End the Death Penalty was there. Former death row inmate and Campaign member Shujaa Graham and D.C. Campaign organizer Mike Stark were part of a contingent of activists from the U.S. organized by the Center for Economic Research and Social Change.

There were hundreds of three-hour sessions organized on three separate campuses across Paris. The biggest plenary sessions took place in huge tents, the size of aircraft hangers. Some of the seminars were held in movie cinemas. Topics covered everything from the global justice movement, to U.S. war on Iraq, and the fight against racism.

One of the sessions brought together organizations fighting the death penalty, including the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, the League for the Rights of Man, Amnesty International and others. During the session, panelist after panelist denounced the barbaric practice of the death penalty. Shujaa Graham brought the audience to tears describing his experience on death row and his lifelong fight against capital punishment.

Another participant in the U.S. delegation was Lou Plummer from Military Families Speak Out, an antiwar organization led by relatives of military service men and women. Lou became involved in activism after witnessing the racism of the criminal justice system firsthand as a correctional officer for eight years in North Carolina. Lou, a former prison guard, and Shujaa, a former prisoner, quickly bonded and were rarely seen apart during the entire ESF.

The ESF finished off with a 100,000-strong demonstration marching against neoliberalism and war. Those four inspiring days of intense discussion and debate proves the ESF slogan: "Another World is Possible."