Moratorium momentum | Front Porch | Indy Week
Pin It

Moratorium momentum 

While the eyes of the nation were focused on bulging chads and voting injustices in Florida, more than a thousand people gathered at a San Francisco hotel last weekend to develop a strategy to end the most disturbing injustice perpetrated by the government: state-sanctioned killing at prisons across the country.

The conference was the largest meeting ever of death-penalty opponents, the latest evidence that the country is awakening to the horrors of a system that premeditatingly kills people in the name of the state, despite now-common knowledge of the abuses, discrimination and unfairness of the system.

Every person there seemingly had their own story to tell about a case in their state: sleeping lawyers, lying prosecutors, innocent people freed by luck and innocent people still facing death.

The most compelling moments came as members of Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation stood and talked about losing a father or mother or child to murder, then fighting against the execution of the person who committed the crime, then fighting to abolish the practice of killing to show that killing is wrong.

The system, as Sister Helen Prejan put it, multiplies the number of murder victims' families by killing someone else's son or daughter or husband or wife.

North Carolina was well represented at the conference. At Saturday's award banquet, Steve Dear of People of Faith Against the Death Penalty was recognized for his work leading the statewide fight for a moratorium on executions, a moratorium endorsed most recently by the city councils in Greensboro and Charlotte.

There were workshops on the media, on youth organizing, on labor's role in the struggle and on working in communities of color. If the conference had a shortcoming, it was the lack of involvement of national African-American organizations and the unexplained no-show of Congresswoman Maxine Waters at a breakfast.

But there were politicians there. Wisconsin senator Russ Feingold delivered the conference's keynote address and talked about abolition as well as moratorium. A smattering of state legislators appeared at a panel discussion.

Usually at conferences of the left, it's the community leaders or a passionate student or the combined energy of the gathering that remains in your mind days after the event is over.

Not this time. There were those compelling stories, those passionate activists, amazing young crusaders for justice and a palpable shared energy that felt overwhelming. But the most memorable moment of the four days came as Gov. George Ryan of Illinois spoke to the crowd.

Ryan, a conservative Republican and lifelong supporter of the death penalty, declared a statewide moratorium on executions in Illinois last year after watching innocent people freed from death row after being completely exonerated.

Ryan looks like a politician--white hair, conservative suit, a cautious manner. His last word from the podium made the weekend. Ryan said if we kept working on him, he, too, would soon be an abolitionist.

Ryan looks like a politician, but on capital punishment, unlike most leaders in North Carolina, he doesn't look like one. I wish Jim Hunt and Mike Easley had been there.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Front Porch

  • One vote

    • Nov 12, 2014
  • Box of one

    Was I paying to be helped or to feel important, a bona fide expert on only myself?
    • Sep 24, 2014
  • The Old South (Hills)

    • Sep 17, 2014
  • More »

More by Chris Fitzsimon

Latest videos from the INDY

Twitter Activity

Comments

Nobody will be surprised to learn that Hocutt never went to Nam. He was in the Navy but washed out …

by Jefflenter on Raleigh bad boy no more (Front Porch)

I see his concern. Yes, it was a well written story and showed his caring side for sure. But not …

by Linda Bates Terrell on Motorcycle men (Front Porch)

Most Read

© 2015 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation