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Taking action for Tookie across the U.S.

December 9, 2005 | Page 11

FROM COAST to coast, supporters of death row prisoner Stan Tookie Williams, who is slated for execution on December 13, were feverishly organizing to win him clemency--with a day of action scheduled for December 8.

In California, anti-death penalty activists are taking their call for clemency to the State Capitol on December 8 with a "Save the Peacemaker/People's Clemency Hearing" rally. Activists will hold their own clemency hearing to coincide with the private clemency hearing that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has scheduled for that day.

What you can do to help save Tookie

-- Set up an information table about Stan's case. Hand out fact sheets and collect signatures on petitions asking Schwarzenegger to grant clemency. Make cell phones available for people to call the governor's office on the spot. Set up a laptop so that people can e-mail the governor right there and then. Schwarzenegger's phone is 916-445-4633, and his e-mail address is [email protected]

-- Hold a press conference with community organizers, campus groups and others involved in the fight for social justice.

-- Organize a rally or picket in your city. Call a campus speakout to "save the peacemaker."

-- Hold a screening of Redemption: The Stan Tookie Williams Story.

-- Organize a teach-in on "The Power of Redemption: The Case of Stan Tookie Williams." Host a former death row prisoner to speak in your city or on your campus.

-- Write a letter or story about Stan's case for local or school newspapers, and contact local radio stations to do a segment on Stan.

-- Organize a spoken word event for Stan, a "Rock for Tookie" concert with local bands to raise funds for Stan's defense, or a mock trial focusing on the injustices of the death penalty.

-- Be creative. Come up with your own ideas to get the word out and build support.

For more information about the Save Tookie campaign or to download petitions and fact sheets, visit the Save Tookie and Campaign to End the Death Penalty Web sites. Be sure to send information about the activities you plan to Save Tookie Web site.

 

Last week, people gathered in events all over the country to draw attention to Stan's case.

In San Francisco, more than 500 people turned out to the Victoria Theatre to attend a sold-out screening of Redemption: The Stan Williams Story, which documents Williams' transformation from leader of the Crips street gang to a peacemaker responsible for authoring many children's books that warn against gangs and helping negotiate several peace treaties between gangs.

Among the guest speakers at the event were actor Danny Glover, Elizabeth Sholes of the California Council of Churches, Boots Riley from the hip-hop group The Coup, Elizabeth Terzakis from the Campaign to End the Death Penalty (CEDP), and Kevin Epps, director of Straight Out of Hunters Point.

The multiracial crowd included 100 students from some of the roughest Bay Area neighborhoods.

"A lot of times you hear condescending people say, 'Why don't you people just stop the violence in your communities,'" said Riley. "But they don't have any experience with the conditions young people in our inner cities live. Tookie has that experience, and it means a lot more when he says don't join a gang than coming from anyone else."

"This is my first time seeing the movie," Jen Hormtiz to Socialist Worker. "It was very inspiring because before I was divided on the Death Penalty, but now I'm definitely against it."

In Los Angeles, more than 300 gathered in Leimert Park on December 3 for a protest sponsored by groups that included the Death Penalty Focus, the CEDP, Gang Intervention and the Nation of Islam (NOI). The execution of Stan Williams will "kill the hopes of millions of black and brown youth," said the NOI's Tony Muhammad.

As part of a November 30 Day of Action to Save Tookie, San Francisco activists held two rallies.

At Noon, 150 people gathered for a press conference on the steps of City Hall. Among the speakers were a San Francisco supervisor Tom Amiano, representatives of the NAACP, and Diego Garcia, a former gang member who has turned his life around because of Tookie's books.

Later that afternoon, 250 people attended a youth rally with the message "Saving Stan Williams Saves Lives" organized by United Playaz, Tailor Made and Youth Commission. "The most impressive thing about the event is the diversity of the crowd that came out to show their solidarity for Stan," said Rudy Corpus, a founding member of United Playaz. "Kids from all over the city came out...the crowd was multi racial, including Straight 'A' students and kids that have been through the system."

From Santa Cruz, Calif., to Chicago to Northampton, Mass., to New York City, activists participated in events on November 30--screening Redemption, holding pickets and circulating petitions.

In New York City, 350 people attending a press conference for Williams and rally to protest John Ashcroft's appearance at Columbia University chanted "Save Tookie, Jail Ashcroft!" In Chicago, 60 people attended a press conference. Thirty rallied in downtown Rochester, N.Y. In Berkeley, 150 people attended a screening of Redemption. In Boston, 80 turned out for a panel meeting featuring Prof. William Keach who nominated Williams for the Nobel Prize in Literature. In Madison, Wis., 60 people turned out for a Rock Out/Speak Out for Tookie.

In LA, rapper Snoop Dogg, actor Jamie Foxx, Sen. Gloria Romero and others read pieces from Williams' acclaimed children's books series his memoir, Blue Rage, Black Redemption, at a "Read-In for Peace" at the Central Library. Foxx, who played Tookie in Redemption, said, "December 13 is my birthday, so I am not going to let this happen."

Bonnie Williams-Taylor, Tookie's first wife and the mother of his son Travon, said, "I hope that the movement continues to grow so that we can clean up this justice system."

Barbara Becnel, Stan's co-author and longtime advocate, surprised the audience by holding up her cell phone to let Williams speak from San Quention's death row. "I'm convinced that no matter what happens, whether I live or whether I am executed that you'll remember me," Stan said. "I am preparing for life, not for death. I know that you will continue working with others."

For more information on how to get involved in he campaign to save Tookie, visit www.savetookie.org or www.nodeathpenalty.org.

Craig Althage, Akunna Eheh, John Green, Jeff DeToro, Hank Levine, Alison McKenna, Laura Nelson, Lucas Nevarez, David Russitano, Kenny Swain and Tasha Triplett contributed to this report.

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