Monday, June 15, 2009

Next day I headed for Harlem. The CEDP bunch unfolded their table under the non-working public telephone on the corner of 125 and Frederick Douglas Boulevard. We were handed a sheaf of fact sheets, copies of The Abolitionist and a clipboard. We needed signatures on a petition. An innocent man was in a cage and he needed to be set free.

Well, the man is Troy Davis. He is in a cage, yes, but his freedom is not so simply got by opening the cage door. He’s on death row. How he got there is the crux of the matter. And a matter so unhip, so under the tabloid radar, so where-is-the-story-if-it’s-just-another-black-man-on-death-row that it will take legions of pavement pounding volunteers to secure signatures on petitions that will be presented to the newly elected DA of Chatham County Georgia so that man—an African American man—can say, ‘Stop bugging me with this shit.’ But nearly every day another person or group in the news comes out in Troy’s defense. The leaders of Georgia's NAACP are gearing up for a national fight to save his life. In a May 31st op-ed piece in the New York Times the writer, Bob Barr—an oppressive policy maker himself—leads off with an astounding statement:

“There is no abuse of government power more egregious than executing an innocent man. But that is exactly what may happen if the United States Supreme Court fails to intervene on behalf of Troy Davis.”

And while, sadly, he reaffirms his belief in the death penalty he concludes with:

“To execute Troy Davis without having a court hear the evidence of his innocence would be unconscionable and unconstitutional.”

I was back uptown on Saturday for a meeting of CEDP’s book club at the Hue-Man Bookshop on Frederick Douglas Boulevard. The last book discussed was Lockdown America: Police and prisons in the age of crisis by Christian Parenti. Our prison system is horrible almost beyond words. It's no wonder a U.S. soldier can dole out tortuous methods without blinking. It's kind of in bred here, this taste for blood. One wonders if Jesus had been murdered in an electric chair, what little gold symbols the crucifix wearing Christian Right would have draped around their necks today.

Currently we are discussing Mumia Abu-Jamal: Jailhouse Lawyers. Prisoners defending prisoners v. the U.S.A. I came to this group because a life-long antipathy for capital punishment needed to be re-educated and activated. Angela Davis notes in the foreword to the book:

“Mumia argues that the passage of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) is a violation of the Convention against Torture, for in ruling out psychological or mental injury as a basis through which to recover damages, such sexual coercion as that represented in the Abu Ghraib photographs, if perpetrated inside a U.S. prison, would not have constituted evidence for a lawsuit.

The man in the White House who supported this act? Wait for it…Bill Clinton!

A frightening number of our so-called Liberal politicians have given their support for the death penalty. Why I could not in good conscience pull the lever for Hillary or Bill Clinton or Al Gore or finally John Kerry when he flip flopped from his anti-death penalty stance to land squarely on the side of executing terrorists. I did not for Barack Obama, who supports capital punishment. I guess many caved when the specter of a Palin/McCain administration (her description) reared its very ugly right-winged head.

In early June this year, Texas marked an abominable milestone. Presumably without batting an eye, Governor Rick Perry presided over the 200th execution of a prisoner, handily beating trigger-happy George Bush’s numbers.

Troy Davis's case has, indeed, gone global and that's what this poor misguided murderous country needs; a global urgency that reflects what we do here as detestable, so much so that we retreat from an unwanted spotlight and all states end capital punishment.

The size of the Francis Bacon exhibition demands that I return. “Weather permitting” says the Metropolitan Museum regarding the opening hours of its roof garden exhibition. Well, ‘conscience permitting’ we will see Troy Davis’s cage opened and finally set him free.

You can read his story online and more importantly, sign Amnesty International’s petition and the petition at the Campaign To End the Death Penalty.

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