Chapters Hold Forums For Mumia Awareness Week Live From Death Row

by Peter Lamphere and Lucy Herschel

On September 22nd, the New York chapters of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty held a meeting called "Live from Death Row: A Forum for Fighting the Death Penalty." The event was held as part of Mumia Awareness Week.

Two hundred students, community members and activists packed into a lecture hall at Columbia University to hear death row inmates, speaking via speakerphone from Illinois' death row, tell their stories and speak out against the criminal justice system. Grayland Johnson and Death Row Ten members Andrew Maxwell and Leonard Kidd were all brutally tortured by Commander Jon Burge and his henchman in Chicago's Area II police precinct.

The three prisoners described in excruciating detail what happened to them. And they told how they have organized to fight back. As Johnson put it, "If you don't speak up for yourself, nobody's going to know you're here."

Richard X Clarke spoke about his experiences during the Attica Prison uprising of 1971 and the brutal torture he experienced at the hands of state police afterwards.

Professor Manning Marable discussed the racism of the death penalty and criminal injustice system, reminding the audience that horrible conditions exist just 35 miles from the Columbia campus at Sing Sing Correctional Facility.

We can build a movement to get rid of the death penalty -- by exposing politicians who use the politics of death to further their careers and by rallying around cases like Mumia's and those of the Death Row Ten.

by James Taylor

The Austin, Texas chapter of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty held its first-ever "Live From Death Row" panel on September 23 during Mumia Awareness Week. Considering the state of the death penalty in Texas, the strong support for this event created much optimism.

About 120 people came to the University of Texas campus to listen to three death row prisoners from Maryland's SuperMax prison discuss the death penalty, their own cases and life on death row. Speaking live via speakerphone were Kenny Collins, John Booth and Jody Lee Miles. Also on the panel in person were Rose Thigpen, Kenny's mother; Jim Harrington, of the Texas Civil Rights Project; and Lily Hughes, a member of the Campaign.

The event happened to be held two weeks after Gov. George W. Bush executed his 100th prisoner since taking office five years ago. Texas is viewed as being a pro-death penalty state. While this may be true of the heads of power in this state, it is not true of the majority of the population. Jim Harrington told Campaign members that it was one of the biggest crowds he's seen for an anti-death penalty event in Texas.

Personally, attending Live From Death Row inspired me to become even more active with the Campaign to End the Death Penalty. The personal touch added to the issue of the death penalty through events like Live From Death Row is one that cannot be felt through names on paper. It requires activists to hear voices of emotion and conviction speaking from inside the belly of the beast.

by Alice Kim

The Hyde Park chapter of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty hosted a "Live From Death Row" forum during Mumia Awareness Week.

Despite technical difficulties that prevented members of the Death Row Ten from speaking to the audience via speakerphone, the event was a success. About 100 supporters heard from mothers of the Death Row Ten; Jamilah Fields, wife of Nathson Fields, who was sent to death row by a corrupt judge; Linda Porter, wife of Anthony Porter, the 10th innocent man released from Illinois' death row; and representatives of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, who spoke out in solidarity with Mumia.

Later that week, members of the Campaign joined a spirited march demanding justice for Mumia. With chants of "They say death row -- We say hell no!" 400 supporters marched through the streets of downtown Chicago.