|Nine Abolitionists Arrested at U.S. Supreme Court|
Click below for press release and arrestee bios:
MEDIA ADVISORY CONTACTS:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE SCOTT LANGLEY or SHEILA STUMPH
18 January 2007 214-226-0503 (mobile)
Nine Activists Arrested at U.S. Supreme Court
to Commemorate 30th Anniversary of First Execution in 1977
WASHINGTON -- Thirty years after the first execution under contemporary laws of Gary Gilmore, nine members of the Abolitionist Action Committee were arrested at the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday. The group unfurled a 30-foot banner that read "STOP EXECUTIONS!" on the stairs of the Court. All nine members were arrested and jailed for more than 30 hours before being released by a Superior Court judge late Thursday afternoon. They have a court date set for March 5.
Participants from North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Kansas and Vermont were there to peacefully and visibly call for an immediate cessation of all executions in the United States through civil disobedience and the risk of arrest.
"Whether by lethal injection, electrocution, hanging, or firing squad, the death penalty has proven to be a complete failure to the victims, to the families of the executed, and to our society as a whole. It is time for us all to recognize this and act upon it. We have tolerated a broken death penalty system for 3 decades too many," said Rachel Lawler, founding member of Vermonters Against the Death Penalty who was arrested outside the Court.
Thirty years ago on this day, in 1977, the State of Utah shot to death Gary Gilmore, who "volunteered" to be killed in revenge for his murder of Ben Bushnell and Max Jenson. This state-assisted suicide was the first execution under the Supreme Court's upholding of the death penalty in 1976.
In 1997 and 2002, on the 20th and 25th anniversaries of that first state-sponsored killing, a total of 25 arrests were made of death penalty abolitionists for unfurling banners at the top of the stairs leading to the front doors of the U.S. Supreme Court.
At the time of the arrests today, 1059 executions had taken place since Gilmore, with another scheduled in Texas on the evening of January 17.
"Public and legal opinion in the U.S. is strongly against executions. In 2006 we saw Maryland, California, Florida and New Jersey all stop lethal injections in their states, and in the last seven years, we have seen a dramatic decrease nationally in both death sentences and executions. Now is the time to end this practice once and for all," said Scott Langley, Abolitionist Action Committee organizer for the January 17th action.
The Abolitionist Action Committee is an ad-hoc group of individuals committed to highly visible and effective public education for alternatives to the death penalty through nonviolent direct action.
(see attached biography sheet on the participants)
(high resolution photos available for publication - call 214-226-0503 for info)
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BIOGRAPHIES OF ARRESTEES
JANUARY 17 DEATH PENALTY ACTION
Beth Brockman, from Durham, NC, is the mother of two children, ages 10 and 5. She is a member of People of Faith Against the Death Penalty and has been arrested four times in the last year for trespassing outside of Central Prison in Raleigh while attempting to stop executions from taking place. She is active in the movement on various local and international human rights issues - including abolition of the death penalty, nuclear weapons and torture.
Brian Buckley, 34, lives in Charlottesville, VA and he fancies himself as a handyman.
Frank Dew is a 55-year old Presbyterian pastor from Greensboro, NC. Frank has been pastor at the New Creation Community Presbyterian Church for 21 years and is a member of People of Faith Against the Death Penalty, where he served as president of the Greensboro chapter. Frank has also been past president of organizations like the Greensboro Habitat for Humanity Board and the Servant Leadership School. He is former chairman of the Greensboro Human Relations Commission. Frank grew up in Lumberton, NC and graduated from Wake Forest and Duke Divinity School.
Ron Kaz is a 53-year-old carpenter from Charleston, SC. He is a lifelong abolitionist and one of the founding members of Charleston Peace in the 1980s. Ron is also a core member of groups such as Amnesty International, CAFE, the SC Progressive Network, and the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry. Ron was arrested at the Supreme Court on January 17, 2002 as part of the action to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Gilmore execution.
Rachel Lawler lives in Montpelier, VT where she is studying Pre-Law at Woodbury College and is a team member of the C.O.S.A. re-entry program at the Montpelier Community Justice Center. She is a founding member of Vermonters Against the Death Penalty. Rachel has been actively involved against the death penalty in numerous states including Vermont, Connecticut, Washington DC, Virginia, and North Carolina. She has an undying love for hot sauce.
Thomas W. Muther, Jr. is a 56 year-old psychiatric RN from Topeka, KS. A past vice-president of the Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty, he first became active in the abolition movement in 1994, the year Kansas reinstated capital punishment. In 1997, he was one of the "DC-18" who was arrested on the steps of the Supreme Court for peacefully demonstrating against the DP. He has also been active as an opponent of child-abuse -- advocating for legislation that would outlaw corporal punishment -- as well as other human rights and environmental issues. He is the proud uncle of 9 nieces and nephews and is a movie fanatic.
Jack Payden-Travers is Director of Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. Since the late 1960's he has been active in the movement for peace and social justice. Since leaving his position as a history professor in 2002, Jack has worked solely on the death penalty, and also now serves on the Board of Directors of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. Jack and his family presently reside in Lynchburg, VA where he has volunteered with Gateway, a residential treatment program for men in recovery and with Daily Bread, a local soup kitchen. He is past chair of the Local Human Rights Committee of Central VA.
Anna Shockley, a 52-year-old mother of two grown daughters, immigrated to this country in 1973 and lives in South Carolina's Francis Marion National Forest with her husband and several retired farm animals. She works as a research assistant at South Carolina State University and is a student at the College of Charleston. She is a member of the Carolina Alliance for Fair Employment and the Webmaster of Charleston Peace.
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