Protest At San Quentin Prison

By: Stefanie Faucher and Elizabeth Terzakis

On April 6, the Oakland chapter of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty held a rally at San Quentin State Prison to build support for a moratorium on executions in California. Around 35 people picketed, chanted, gathered signatures, and passed out anti-death penalty literature in front of the prison gates.

The Campaign event coincided with Amnesty International’s Death Penalty Awareness Week, and activists from Death Penalty Focus, Amnesty International, and the University of California-Berkeley chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union turned out to show their support.

Family members of death row inmates who helped to organize the rally were prominent in the crowd. Gail Berryman, whose husband Rodney is on death row, led chants and appealed to family and friends who were visiting the prison to join the protest.

Harry Souza, whose son Matt is on death row, also spoke about the ways in which the prison degrades and humiliates inmates and their families. "They make us visit in cages -- they do everything they can to make the visiting room like a dungeon," Souza said.

Campaign member Rosemary Malone read a statement written for the event by death row inmate Dellano Cleveland, thanking people for turning out to show solidarity.

Michell Simon, a Campaign member, also spoke out against the backward priorities of the criminal injustice system: "You know that if the state really cared about public safety and personal security they would be spending money on education and health care and not on building prisons."

California’s death penalty system suffers from the same problems that have plagued other death penalty states like Illinois and Texas. California legislators should take a long and hard look at capital punishment and evaluate what purpose it really serves.