Kevin Cooper: Live from San Quentin Prison's Death Row

Kevin Cooper has been on California?s death row since 1985. Last year, the state of California set February 10 as an execution date for Kevin, but abolitionists rose to the challenge with a broad-based struggle--involving Kevin himself from inside prison walls and hundreds outside--that pressured the court system to stop the execution. Kevin spoke to the Campaign convention via speakerphone.

Good morning, my brothers and sisters. How are you? [A chant in the room breaks out: "Free Kevin Cooper! Free Kevin Cooper!"] We don't have much time so I wanted to call and thank each and every one of you for your support in the fight for my life and the fight to end the death penalty. It has come to my attention that many of us -- my brothers and sisters in struggle -- have become somewhat discouraged because of the presidential elections. What I want you to know is that what was re-elected is the opposite of what we had to say about life earlier this year. I am living proof that activism does work. We cannot get discouraged. We cannot give up. I will not give up.

I call you, my brothers and sisters, not because we are related by blood or by birth, but I call you my brothers and sisters by choice, because you are my family. The fight for human rights is so important for every one of us. We want to continue what we started, and we cannot let anyone -- anyone, not Bush, not Cheney, not Rumsfeld, or anyone else -- discourage us from what we're doing.

Everybody must fight in this movement for civil rights, for human rights, for gay rights, for African rights, for white rights, for Latino rights. Every single person in the history of this country has run up against the same type of power we're up against right now. But then it didn't stop them, and it won?t stop us! No one will stop us.

This time last year in the state of California I received an execution date on December 17, 2003. They were going to execute me on February 10, 2004. I was terrorized by these people. There is something wrong with that line between what is justice and what is terrorism. These people don't see themselves as terrorists but what they did to me was outright, man-made terrorism. I do not want anybody, not any man on this death row, or any woman on death row in this state to ever have to go through what I went through -- held in a cell next door to the death chamber. My life was just one phone call away from being executed.

And the only reason I'm here today is because of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty and for this I will forever be in your debt. I thank you so very much.

In closing, I want to wish each of you peace and strength. Continue to fight. Do not give up and don't let anyone -- anyone -- discourage you from fighting, because this is right!

In struggle from death row, this is Kevin Cooper.