photo: Johnnie Stevens
C. Anderson Davis, grand marshal of Houston's Juneteenth Parade,
spoke about Sankofa's case to over 2,000 marchers June 17. He
said: "Juneteenth isn't just about freedom 135 years ago. It's
about freedom today."
confront Gov. Bush
‘Not one more execution!’
the eve of the June 22 execution of Gary Graham/Shaka Sankofa
militant protests were held in Texas, throughout the United
States and around the world to demand an end to the lynching
of an African American prisoner whose supporters, bolstered
by new evidence, maintain is innocent.
in riot gear attacked 200 Sankofa supporters outside the State
Capitol in Austin June 19 after a march from the governor's
mansion. Fifteen people were arrested and charged with "obstructing
a passageway," punishable by up to three months in jail and
a $2,000 fine.
same day two death-penalty opponents disrupted a fundraiser
for Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the Republican presidential candidate,
in Palo Alto, Calif., as 200 rallied outside.
again shouted down Bush at a fundraiser in Los Angeles June
20. They chanted, "Don't execute an innocent man!"
in New York June 19, at least 1,000 protesters held a noisy
rush-hour march through midtown Manhattan. Six activists occupied
the New York Republican Party offices and were arrested.
plan to stage more protests if Bush does not issue a stay of
execution before June 22. Shaka Sankofa has called for 10,000
people to protest in Huntsville, home of the Texas death chamber,
lawyers have asked the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to
recommend a 120-day stay of execution so that new evidenceincluding
the testimony of six eyewitnesses who say he was not the shootercan
be heard. Bush could approve a stay if the board recommends
June 20 Dallas Morning News reported that the board would not
make its recommendation to Bush until noon on June 22just
six hours before Sankofa is scheduled to die.
prompted State Senator Rodney Ellis to ask the 18-member board
to hold a public hearing to consider the stay. (Associated Press,
June 21) The secretive group of Bush appointees rarely meets
and usually votes by fax.
reported June 20 that Bush "remains convinced of his [Sankofa's]
guilt" and "would not bow to pressure." But Bush did bow to
massive public outrage over the death penalty on June 1, when
he granted a 30-day stay of execution to Ricky McGinn.
President Al Gore, Bush's Democratic opponent in the presidential
race, also supports the death penalty. Gore has refused to criticize
Bush's killing spree--which reached 134 with the execution of
Paul Nuncio June 16.
are used exclusively against poor and working -class people,
especially people of color.
am going to fight like hell against anyone trying to murder
me on an execution gurney," Sankofa vowed during a June 18 interview.
"It's never too late to stop the execution of an innocent man."
'He didn't get justice'
the protests were taking place, three jurors in Sankofa's 1981
capital murder trial came forward to say that after reviewing
new evidence presented by his lawyers, they now believe he was
wrongfully convicted of killing Bobby Lambert.
of the jurorsBobby Pryor and Dennis Grahamappeared
on ABC's "Nightline" June 19 and asked Bush to stop the execution.
was just 17 when he was charged with killing Lambert outside
a Houston grocery store. He was convicted on the testimony of
a single eyewitness.
hope they don't do that [execute Sankofa]," Bobby Pryor said.
"He just didn't get his justice in this trial."
Rev. Jesse Jackson visited Sankofa June 20, along with Amnesty
International representative Bianca Jagger and Nation of Islam
Southwestern Regional Rep. Minister Robert Muhammad.
hope that my presence will get Bush's attention and there will
not be an execution on Thursday," Jackson said in Chicago June
19. If not, Jackson said, he will be on hand to witness the
state's legal lynching of Sankofa.
New York Times, Amnesty International, the Detroit City Council
and the Reform Jewish movement are among those calling on Bush
to stop the execution. Even U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno
denounced the "high level of incompetence" among court-appointed
capital defense attorneys.
is a sizzling movement from below," said Johnnie Stevens of
the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement and the International
Action Center, the groups that initiated the nationwide June
19 protests. "People here know Gary Graham, they know his case.
They know about the controversy in the media. With the leaflets
and posters getting out on the streets people are feeling empowered."
at Republican convention
June 16-18, Sankofa's supporters took the death-row prisoner's
case to the doorstep of the Texas Republican Party Convention
opening day about 100 activists carried big posters reading
"Stop the execution of Shaka Sankofa" and distributed leaflets.
had set a designated protest area five blocks away. But the
protesters, ignoring the cops, marched right to the convention's
entrance and used their sound system to condemn Bush.
speaking out included Minister Robert Muhammad, Njeri Shakur
of the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, and SHAPE Community
Center Director Deloyd Parker.
people do not get justice from this system," Parker said. "Shaka
was a poor person, a young person. He didn't get justice."
members of the New Black Panther Movement also demonstrated
at the convention's opening. Expressing their right to self-defense
against a racist system, these protesters carried rifles and
shotguns. In Texas it is legal to carry such weapons in public.
militant protest created a sensation among the media and hostile
is about freedom today'
also took Sankofa's case directly to the Black community here
at Juneteenth celebrations.
19marks the day in 1865 when slaves in Galveston, Texas,
finally learned of the Emancipation Proclamation, two years
after it became law.