Building the Campaign to Save Darrell Harris in New York City

By: Tristin Aide

In New York City, we have been able to get the backing and involvement of a number of churches in our effort to build a defense campaign for Darrell Harris. Because the movement against the death penalty must involve as broad a grouping of people who feel strongly about the issue as possible, the churches and synagogues are an important ally in this fight.

In general, we have won support through the following steps:

  • Approaching the leaders of the church. Rather than just swooping into a church on a Sunday to hand out flyers to people after the service, we have approached ministers or other elder officials of the churches to meet with them about our organizing efforts.

    Sitting down and talking about the importance of the death penalty case we are working around gives them a sense of how urgent it is that more people take a public stand against the death penalty.

    This also gives us a chance to familiarize them with the Campaign. We generally ask if the church will sign on as an official endorser of a campaign or event we're working on at this point.

  • Giving them materials to hand out in church or include in mailings. Many clergy members have been willing to take flyers for rallies, copies of the New Abolitionist, petitions, etc. to give to their members.
  • Seeing if they will talk about the case from the pulpit on Sunday or if they will bring in someone from the Campaign to talk about it. This gives the issue greater credibility and gets the word out to everyone in the congregation.
  • Collecting signatures and donations from people after the service. We have been able to collect a number of signatures this way, and we meet new people who are interested in becoming activists against the death penalty. We didn't initially think to ask for money, however, until a number of people at one church offered us money! (We collected $45.)
  • Inviting members of the church to speak at Campaign events. We want to be able to demonstrate to the press and politicians how widespread sentiment against the death penalty is. having clergy from activist churches helps accomplish this. And it can help bring more of the congregation out to an event.