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"Refusing to support injustice with inaction"
A view from the death row resistance

October 27, 2006 | Page 7

ROB WILL is a DRIVE member who has kept a diary while on death row. Here, we publish an excerpt of his writings. Read the full entries at freerobwill.org.

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August 24, 2006

Approx. 10 a.m.: Today is Justin Fuller's execution date. I was supposed to be out at visitation today, but I think they have the unit locked down. Kevin Watts is over in the B-dayroom, and he's refusing to come out. He's "occupied" the dayroom in protest of Justin (AKA: J-Wacc) Fuller's unjust murder that's set to be carried out later today. Kevin is standing with J-Wacc in complete solidarity!

Okay, they just put all of the other guys who were in other dayrooms back in their cells. I'm on the other side of the pod, so I can't see the entire other half, but between me and my other neighbors, we'll be able to see what all goes on. Sergeants and lieutenants and even the major are over there now. Kevin has a gas mask on. A bunch of officers are over there.

The Emergency Response Riot Team just came in the door. All of the officers have gas masks on. Damn! They just fired on Kevin with the 37mm Riot Control assault tear-gas weapon. It sounded like several 12-gauge shotguns fired simultaneously. The gun looks somewhat like an H&K MP5 assault submachine gun, the kind Army Special Forces units use. Kevin still hasn't come out.

What you can do

Contact these officials and demand better conditions for inmates on Texas' death row:
-- Polunsky Unit Wardens: Warden Massey and Asst. Warden Hirch, 3872 F.M. 350 South, Livingston, TX 77351, 936-967-8082 (ask for the warden's office)
-- Texas Board of Criminal Justice Chair: Christina Melton Crain, 5521 Greenville Ave., Suite 104-944, Dallas, TX 75206
-- Texas Gov. Rick Perry: 800-252-9600

Come to the March to Stop Executions in Austin, Texas, on October 28, 2006. Marchers will gather at 3 p.m. on October 28 at the Texas governor's mansion, between 10th and 11th Streets on Lavaca, then march to Austin City Hall Plaza for a rally. The Texas Moratorium Network Web site has additional information.

What else you can read

The DRIVE movement's Web site contains extensive information on resistance actions on death row and what people can do to support the struggle. The Texas death row hunger strikers' statement outlines their motivations and demands.

The Campaign to End the Death Penalty's New Abolitionist newsletter contains regular coverage of the struggle in Texas and around the country.

For an inside look at the Texas death penalty system, read Within These Walls: Memoirs of a Death House Chaplain, by Rev. Carroll Pickett, who bore witness to the state-sponsored murder of nearly 100 prisoners in Texas.

 

Can you imagine how it would feel to have one of your friends led off to execution? Would you remain complacent and do nothing? Or would you stand up against injustice and protest?

The ER Team is lined up at the dayroom door. They just fired on Kevin with a canister of Crowd Control gas. They just ran in! The five-man Riot Team slammed into Kevin with the riot shield, and they are all struggling. The team is piled on top of him, and he's lost under a blur of black-gloved fists, stomping combat boots and riot gear.

It looks like they have Kevin cuffed and shackled. Now they're ripping all of his clothes off. This system attempts to dehumanize "inmates" in every way possible; this is especially true when a person challenges this system in any way.

Now the riot team is picking Kevin up. They're about to bring him through the door separating the sides of the pod. There he is, completely naked in handcuffs and shackles, surrounded by the riot team and a bunch of officers.

Alright, they're bringing Kevin on to this section. Let me holler at him to make sure he's alright..."Hell no, I'm not alright, I'm burning up!" That was Kevin's response. He's alive, responsive and not beat down too bad, so that's good.

Approx. 1:30 p.m.: The officers just finished feeding the lunch trays, but they skipped Kevin; they didn't feed him. I'm about to holler at Officer Lane to see what's up... "Watts jacked my dayroom, so now I'm jacking his tray." I suppose Officer Lane thinks he can starve people without any consequences or repercussions. Lane is a fairly new officer, and he hardly ever works the disciplinary pod.

I'm about to cordially explain to him that if he doesn't give Watts a tray, then I will be forced to commit a direct action, which will result in a "major incident." Kevin is in an empty cell, completely naked and covered in gas. He just committed the courageous and righteous act of occupying the dayroom, which led to him being assaulted with chemical gas and beaten, in protest of Justin Fuller's execution date.

How can I call myself an activist and allow Kevin to starve? Could I even call myself a human if I sat by and did nothing while such an inhumane and sadistic act occurred? No. They're going to have to gas me and beat me today also if they don't feed Kevin.

Officer McCoy just walked by, and I asked him if they were going to feed Kevin. He said, "Calm down, Will, he'll get fed." Well, we'll see...okay, cool, Officer Lane and Officer McCoy just gave Kevin a tray. They also gave him a towel and some clothes.

Approx. 4 p.m.: I just found out that Justin refused to participate in his own murder! He stood up to this deplorable system, and he refused to walk to his execution!

I don't know what all happened, but I do know that Justin protested his execution, and the ER Team had to physically put him in the execution van.

I was supposed to be out at visitation today, to stand with Justin in solidarity, but for some reason, my visitor didn't show up. I hate that I wasn't out there, but it's good to know he protested. I knew he would; Justin always stood up for what was right.

Let me give you an example: One day when I was on A-pod, I refused to give back the handcuffs. The ER Team stormed on the pod, I was assaulted with riot control chemical gas; then I was left naked in a cell.

While all of this was happening everyone else was left in the showers, including Justin. A bunch of other inmates were whining and crying about the gas and being left in the shower. Justin wasn't. He fully supported us protesting, and he was essentially a part of us protesting. He knew he might suffer from retaliation, but Justin still supported everything me and Tony were doing. He didn't allow this system to dictate his morality.

In a few hours, Justin Fuller will be executed. He will be strapped down to a gurney and murdered. But Justin bravely refused to give justification to state-sanctioned murder by participating in his own execution. He refused to support injustice with inaction. Justin courageously protested his execution, and he now stands as an inspiration to me and he should definitely stand as an inspiration to others!

September 12, 2006

Yesterday was insane. Early in the morning, on the first round of recreation, my neighbor Rick Rhodes went to the outside rec yard. Sgt. Brown, accompanied by several officers, shook down Rick's cell. During the cell search, they took some things that Rick didn't want them to take, so he refused to leave the yard.

Rick was then assaulted with a tear-gas grenade, fired on with the crowd control tear gas assault weapon and physically removed by the ER Team. I attempted to write down a "play-by-play‚" account of the events, but I had to stop midway because of the tear gas--it forced my eyes to close, and I began choking and coughing.

About an hour later, the officers started putting people out to recreation, but they skipped our section. We were told that "because of Rick Rhodes, no one in F-section is going to go to rec or showers."

So, we all got mad at Rick, cursed him out, and now, no one will talk to him...Yeah right!

Their little "divide-and-conquer" tactics do not work with some of us. Sadly, those type of tactics do work with most inmates, though. That's why Sgt. Brown had the audacity to look me right in the eyes and say, "Blame Rick Rhodes, it's his fault y'all aren't going to shower or rec."

Ah yes, and I suppose I should blame the poor for being poor, blame all Muslims for "terrorism," and blame the "illegal immigrants‚" for...whatever they're being blamed for this week! No, I don't think so...

To show solidarity with Rick and to support his courageous act of protest, a bonfire was lit on 2-row, and then guys on 1-row started flooding. I've been around probably hundreds of fires since I've been here, and I've never seen such an outright sadistic act happen like what happened after the fire was lit: the officers shut off the power, turned off all the ventilation and let the fire burn.

Keep in mind that this is a completely enclosed space. There are no windows to open. Smoke began consuming the entire section. I tied a sheet to my door to try to keep the smoke out, but it didn't work. Thick dark grey smoke began filling our cells. Everyone was hollering at the officers to turn the fans on, but they wouldn't.

I wrapped a wet towel around my face, then I began getting dizzy. I crashed out on my bunk because I couldn't stand up any more. I heard my neighbor screaming, "We need help! Get medical! 84 cell passed out!" The officers didn't do anything.

I don't know if I passed out also, but I remember trying to get up, and I couldn't. Then, I remember an officer beating on my door, and I got up and some of the smoke was cleared out. I took the wet towel from around my face and it was black on the area where my mouth was.

No one died but many of us were pretty bad off, feeling extremely sick with severe headaches.

Either Sgt. Ludwig, Ms. Jager, CO Fisher or CO Smith was responsible for this blatant act of sadism. Or perhaps all of them. They were the only staff members on the pod at the time. If a decent officer wouldn't have come on the pod and turned the exhaust fans on, we probably would have all died. Seriously, it was that bad.

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