Saturday, January 21, 2012

DC Catholic Workers Arrested at U.S. Supreme Court to Commemorate 35th Anniversary of First Execution

January 20, 2012

from The Abolitionist Action Committee


Dorothy Day Catholic Workers Amber Mason & Kevin Mason Among the 14

Activists Arrested at U.S. Supreme Court to Commemorate 35th

Anniversary of First Execution


WASHINGTON, D.C.  – Thirty-five years after the first execution under

contemporary laws of Gary Gilmore, fourteen members of the

Abolitionist Action Committee were arrested at the U.S. Supreme Court

on Tuesday.  Just after 10:00 am, at the exact time that Gilmore was

executed, the group unfurled a 30-foot banner that read “STOP

EXECUTIONS!” on the stairs of the Court.  On the sidewalk, a crowd of

well-over 100 supporters, activists and tourists supported and

observed the action.


All fourteen were arrested and appeared the following day before a

judge for arraignment.  They were released on personal recognizance

with a charge of violating the federal law (40 U.S.C. 6135) that

forbids "processions or assemblages" and the displaying of banners on

Supreme Court grounds.  A status hearing will take place on February

8th, at which time a trial date will be scheduled.


The group included several murder victim family members, family of the

incarcerated, and national leaders in the death penalty abolition

movement.  One of the participants who was arrested was Randy Gardner,

whose brother, like Gilmore, was executed in Utah by firing squad.


"My Brother Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed June 18, 2010 by the same

state and by the same method as Gilmore," Gardner stated.  "I believed

then, and I still believe now, that the death penalty is morally

wrong.  I'm here to help abolish the death penalty by protesting in

any shape or form.”  And, using Gilmore’s last words, he added, “Let’s

do it."


Upon arrest, five of the 14 participants did not carry any

identification with them, and when asked their names by the police,

they simply stated, "I am Troy Davis."


Scott Langley, one of those who refused to reveal his true identity

said, "In the wake of Troy Davis's wrongful execution in Georgia this

past September, I felt it was necessary to bring the name of Troy

Davis back to the U.S. Supreme Court so that Troy's name would once

again haunt the court that failed to stop the execution of an innocent

man.  I also wanted the name Troy Davis to be a permanent alias on my

criminal record as a reminder to myself of what our justice system is

capable of."


Three of the five men who identified themselves as Troy Davis were

released the same day along with the six women who were arrested in

the protest.  Two of the men were held overnight in DC's Central Cell

Block because fingerprinting did not reveal their true identities.

The two men, Daniel Flynn and Jon Dunn, were brought before a judge

more than 30 hours after their arrest in leg and arm shackles.


When asked by the judge for their names, they replied, "I was arrested

as Troy Davis," and then proceeded to reveal their true identities.

Flynn and Dunn were released by 5:00 pm on Wednesday to join with the

other 12 who had been released the night before.


Another one of those arrested was Charity Lee, from San Antonio,

Texas.  Lee's father was murdered when she was only six. Then, as a

young parent herself, her daughter was sexually abused and murdered in

2007 by her son, who is now in prison.   In an interview with the  San

Antonio Current just before the arrests, Lee said, "In contemporary

America we have forgotten the fact that we were revolutionaries at one

point and the First Amendment gives us the right to speak up for what

we believe in.  We need to show people in America it’s still okay to

take a stand for what you believe in — and that if you truly

passionately believe in something enough, you need to put yourself out



Those arrested were Anna Shockley (South Carolina), Ron Kaz (South

Carolina), Rachel Lawler (Vermont), Tom Muther (Kansas), Amber Mason

of Dorothy Day Catholic Worker (Washington, DC), Kevin Mason of

Dorothy Day Catholic Worker (Washington, DC),  Jon Dunn (New Mexico),

Jack Payden-Travers (Virginia), Scott Langley (New York), Randy

Gardner (Utah), Daniel Flynn (Washington, DC), Anne Feczko

(Washington, DC), Charity Lee (Texas) and Eve Tetaz (Washington, DC).


Since 1997, a total of 48 arrests have been made of people unfurling

banners that read "STOP EXECUTIONS!" on the stairs leading to the

front doors of the U.S. Supreme Court.  The protest takes place every

five years, on the January 17 first execution anniversary.


Thirty-five years ago, on January 17, 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.  Since then, there have been 1277 more

executions, with more than 3200 currently on death rows in  34 states.


The protest is organized by the Abolitionist Action Committee, an

ad-hoc group of individuals committed to highly visible and effective

public education for alternatives to the death penalty through

nonviolent direct action.  The Committee also organizes a four day

fast and vigil on the Supreme Court sidewalk, where it is perfectly

legal to demonstrate.  The vigil event takes place every June 29

through July 2, and all are invited to participate.


See for more information on the group's programs and

activities or to make a donation to support the work for abolition.

All funds will be used to help support the trial of the "Supreme Court

14" and the fast and vigil this summer.


Contact: or P.O. Box 89, Ghent New York 12075 USA.


Peace & Love,


    Amber Mason

    Dorothy Day Catholic Worker

    503 Rock Creek Church RD NW | WDC 20010



"Don't worry about being effective. Just concentrate on being faithful

to the truth.” - Dorothy Day



No comments: