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In the streets for Kenneth Foster

By Bryan McCann | August 3, 2007 | Page 8

MORE THAN 200 people filled the streets of downtown Austin, Texas, July 21 in the high point in a series of actions and activities to demand justice for death row prisoner Kenneth Foster.

Nearly two months in the making, this powerful event was the result of the hard work of the Save Kenneth Foster Campaign, a coalition formed earlier this year after Kenneth was given an August 30 execution date, and led by Kenneth's family and supporters, along with the the Campaign to End the Death Penalty and the ISO.

The rally was preceded by a national call-in day, in which Kenneth's supporters flooded the office of Texas Gov. Rick Perry with telephone calls, faxes and e-mails. The rally and other events have brought new attention to the Kenneth's case, including in the media--in the week after the march, the Austin-American Statesmen published an editorial calling for the execution to be stopped.

Kenneth faces death for nothing more than driving the car that carried Mauriceo Brown during several robberies that ended with Brown shooting Michael LaHood, while an unaware Foster sat in the vehicle nearly 100 feet away.

What you can do

Call on Gov. Rick Perry to stop the execution of Kenneth Foster. Call 800-252-9600 (Texas callers) or 512-463-1782 (Austin and out of state), and send faxes to 512-463-1849.

For more information on Kenneth's case and the struggle of Texas death row prisoners against executions and rotten conditions, see the Free Kenneth Foster and DRIVE Movement Web sites.

Go to YouTube to watch videos of numerous speakers at the July 21 rally, including Nydesha Foster, Mario Africa, Dana Cloud, Shujaa Graham and the Welfare Poets.

Donations to the Save Kenneth Foster campaign can be made by sending checks or money orders (to the account "To Save Kenneth Foster," no. 831766.1) to: Velocity Credit Union, P.O. Box 1089, Austin, TX 78767-9947.

You can also write Kenneth to voice your support: Kenneth Foster Jr. #999232, Polunsky Unit, 3872 FM 350 South Livingston, TX 77351.


But the state of Texas is using its Law of Parties--which holds people responsible if they were at the scene of a crime and could have "anticipated" that it would be committed--to send Kenneth toward execution.

At the July 21 rally, protesters first gathered on the steps of the Texas State Capitol to hear speakers. Kenneth's civil attorney and longtime supporter Mary Felps gave a summary of his case and legal claims, and Kenneth's grandfather, Lawrence Foster, then reflected on the execution of Mauriceo Brown for the death of Michael Lahood.

"A life has already been taken," Foster said. "Are we going to have to give two lives for one? Do you think that's justice? Do you think that we should just sit around and not let people know that this is not justice?" The crowd replied with an emphatic "No!"

Mario Africa, a member of the Black radical group MOVE and writer for AWOL Magazine, gave a powerful speech that encouraged the audience to be unapologetic in their demands for justice. "There's no no quicker way to die in the United States than throwing yourself on the mercy of the U.S. government," he said. "The situation has to be created that makes it politically untenable for the state of Texas to murder an innocent man."

Closing out the capitol rally, University of Texas professor and ISO member Dana Cloud said, "Clearly, we can't rely on the governor to pull the brake on the train of injustice. And we can't trust the court to lay itself on the tracks for the wrongly convicted. It is up to us. We have to keep up the fight to right these wrongs."

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KENNETH'S DAUGHTER Nydesha Foster and other family members then led the crowd on the march through downtown Austin. Marchers filled the air with chants like "It's not justice, it's a lie; Kenneth Foster must not die!" Several pedestrians stopped to watch, and many cars honked their horns in support.

The march ended at a parking lot across from the governor's mansion, where protesters heard from other speakers. Former death row prisoner Shujaa Graham related his experiences as a political prisoner and activist. Also present was Rodrick Reed, brother of another innocent Texas death row inmate, Rodney Reed, who offered his family's solidarity. Kenneth Foster Sr. also spoke in support of his son.

Several musical groups energized the crowd, including the New York-based hip-hop artists the Welfare Poets, who have long supported Kenneth and the other Texas death row prisoners who, together with Foster, formed the DRIVE Movement to fight the death penalty from inside prison walls. Exonerated Illinois death row inmate Darby Tillis also played music, and the crowd listened to a recording of Kenneth reciting his own poetry.

In her closing remarks, 11-year-old Nydesha inspired the crowd and sent a strong message to the Court of Criminal Appeals and Gov. Perry. "So what is justice?" she said. "Shame on you Texas, because this time, you are really wrong. This is my poem, my prayer, and my song--that you will be known for something other than killing and ignoring the truth...

"You tell my dad to take responsibility. Well, he has for 10 years! We're tired of tears. July 21, today, we make a stand to end this injustice...Today, I stand as his testament saying that we can accept no less than liberation."

The response to the rally has been inspiring and given confidence to the Texas abolitionist movement. The Save Kenneth Foster Campaign is planning an August 18 rally in San Antonio, where the murder of Michael LaHood took place, as well as an emergency rally on August 21 in Austin if necessary. The coalition will also hold a press conference and clemency letter drop at the governor's office in early August.

Time is of the essence, and the Save Kenneth Foster Campaign will not rest until justice is served!

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