Determined protesters say 'Stop the executions'
Published Jan 18, 2007 1:27 AM
In blustery cold rain and mud, almost 100 people faced off with prison
authorities at the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown, Ohio. The crowd
maintained their high spirits and militancy in spite of drenched clothing and
the state’s video cameras.
WW photo: Susan Schnur
Since 2004, Ohio has been second only to Texas in the number of executions.
Most death row prisoners are held at OSP, as are a number of prisoners with
life sentences from the 1993 rebellion in the Lucasville, Ohio prison. Many of
their family members and friends had come to make their sentiments known,
including mothers carrying handmade signs with their son’s names. Most of
the demonstrators were African American.
Chants echoed over the 50-acre property and the rings of fences around the
monstrous prison. In keeping with the spirit of an event in honor of Dr. Martin
Luther King, Jr., a Cleveland community group called Black on Black Crime began
singing “We Shall Overcome.” A banner demanded “Stop the
Executions!” in 13-inch letters in the hopes that prisoners would be able
to see it from their windows.
Many of the participants learned of the protest through a grassroots prisoner
letter campaign. Rally organizers had also reached out to various organizations
that oppose the death penalty and anti-war groups.
In addition to the locally based Youngstown Prison Forum, LOOP (Loved Ones Of
Prisoners), and Youngstown Peace Action, Cleveland organizations showed up in
force. Black on Black Crime had a contingent of many carloads. Cleveland
Coalition Against the Death Penalty brought many signs and the Cleveland New
Black Panther Party was present. The Cleveland Lucasville Five Defense
Committee and Peoples Fightback Center arranged for a 12-person van and
coordinated a four-car caravan from Cleveland. The statewide Citizens United
for the Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE-Ohio) was also represented.
The International Action Center put out an e-mail about the rally. Messages of
solidarity and support came in from Vancouver, British Columbia and
The rally signifies the start of a new campaign to halt executions and to get
the Lucasville-related convictions overturned, with Ted Strickland newly
inaugurated as Ohio’s governor. Write to Governor Ted Strickland, 77 High
Street, 30th Floor, Columbus, OH 43215, fax 614-728-4819 or call
The Cleveland Lucasville Five Defense Committee is planning a series of
educational and outreach activities in the months to come to increase the
public’s awareness of the false convictions. Evidence continues to emerge
showing the perjury of “witnesses” who sent the Five to death row.
The prisoners are in solitary confinement and are handcuffed during
non-contact-only visits. This has gone on for 13 long years and is taking a
health toll on some of the prisoners. It is time for their unjust convictions
to be overturned and they be allowed to walk free. (See Workers World, Oct. 18,
2006, and Oct. 30, 2006)
The prisons in this country are concentration camps for the poor and oppressed.
In the prisons reside men with proven leadership abilities, like the Lucasville
Five, who the authorities feel are far too dangerous to allow out on the
streets to do the organizing that they might feel compelled by their
experiences to do. Among the 2 million inmates imprisoned in the United States
are many who were simply unable to afford a decent defense. They provide fodder
for the prison industrial complex, while their communities are badly depleted
of precious human resources. The state apparatus hopes that this will prevent
further rebellions in the streets, but we shall see.
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