Highlights of the struggle

Austin, Texas

By: Jayson Thomas

This summer, the Austin Chapter organized two movie screenings of State vs. Reed, a documentary that scrutinizes the state’s case against Reed, by presenting a strong case of reasonable doubt. For years, the chapter has worked closely with Rodney Reed and his family, calling for his conviction to be overturned. In July, our chapter organized a very lively protest to call attention to new issues in Rodney’s case. We reached out to other organizations and the local media to join us at the Capital where speakers from the CEDP, the NAACP and the International Socialist Organization called for justice for Rodney Reed.

The next step in our campaign for Rodney is a protest at the Texas Criminal Court of Appeal on September 13. On this date, we are planning to deliver a petition calling for a new trial for Rodney. Our activity has fueled CEDP members to create a FreeRodneyReed.org web site and resource center for information about his case and future events.

More recently, we have been building a coalition with a group of death row prisoners and local activist organizations to demand better living conditions on Texas’ Death Row Unit. The Polunsky unit has deteriorating and inhumane conditions. A group of prisoners formed their own organization called Death Row Inner-communalist Vanguard Engagement or D.R.I.V.E to bring notice to the horrendous conditions on death row. Their tactics include non-compliancy, protest and direct disobedience. These prisoners risk retaliation for speaking out against their conditions and have been met with increased repression. We hope that our efforts, working with D.R.I.V.E., will have an impact and change the conditions on Texas’ death row. From conviction, to detainment, to execution, it’s clear that capital punishment is a cruel and unusual practice.

To expand our membership, we have plans to set up informational tables in the Austin community and on campus at the University of Texas. Later in the month, on September 18, we are organizing a public forum, “The Belly of the Beast: The Struggle for Abolition in Texas,” to bring together abolitionists to discuss the current state of the abolitionist movement in our state. In our efforts to build a stronger, more unified movement, we helped to form the Abolition Coalition of Texas or ACT, a coalition of seven abolitionist organizations in Texas. Through ACT, we’re planning to use more unified strategies to reach our common goal of ending the death penalty. And last but not least, we’re planning our annual March for Moratorium at the Capitol in October.