Photo: Bill Hackwell
Palo Alto demostrators disrupted $1000-a-plate dinner for Bush

Coast to coast and around
the world struggles to save
Gary Graham/Shaka Sankofa



Protest disrupts
Bush fundraiser

Holding up placards that read "Stop the execution of Gray Graham" and "Gov. George Bush: Don't kill another innocent man," two people disrupted the $1,000-per-person fundraiser for Bush at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Palo Alto, Calif., on June 19.

Outside, over 200 people protested the slated June 22 execution of Texas death row inmate Shaka Sankofa, formerly known as Gary Graham.

As Bush's motorcade drove into the hotel, the crowd chanted: "What do we want? New trial for Shaka! When do we want it? Now!" The main chant heard during the protest was, "Don't kill another innocent man, new trial for Gary Graham."

Nancy Mitchell of San Francisco and Coleen Lamp of Belmont, Calif., both supporters of the International Action Center, were ejected from the hotel after the disruption. They joined the protest outside.

Lamp explained: "I started chanting, 'Stop the execution of Gray Graham,' as [Bush] was introduced. I know he feels the strength and will of the people to stop this execution."

Mitchell said: "Gary Graham is clearly innocent. The torrent of media coverage about Graham's case in particular and the death penalty in general exposes the racist and anti-poor character of the death penalty.

"Gary Graham's execution is three days away. George Bush: The time is now. Don't kill another innocent person."

Speakers at the rally included representatives of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, International Action Center and the Campaign to the End the Death Penalty.

As part of nationwide coordinated demonstrations, a follow-up protest was planned for June 20 in San Francisco.

—Saul Kanowitz

Photo: Josina Dunkel
Protesters outside Republican HQ which were being
occupied by others inside demanding that Bush stop the execution


1,000 march, six arrested for Sankofa

About 1,000 people protested outside "Bush for President" headquarters in midtown Manhattan June 19 to demand that New York Republican Party leaders pressure Bush to stop the execution of Sankofa. New York Gov. George Pataki reintroduced the death penalty here in 1995.

A spirited march across busy 42nd St. tied up traffic during the evening rush hour. Many onlookers, who'd heard about Sankofa's case as the struggle for his freedom grew, asked for flyers.

The marchers chanted, "Death row, hell no! Free Gary Graham!" and "Moratorium now!"

The march ended outside the New York State Republican offices in the Sterling National Bank Building. Inside, six activists from Millions for Mumia/International Action Center had occupied the Republican offices. They said they would not leave until Bush agreed to stop the June 22 execution.

The six were Larry Holmes, Elijah Crane, Qausu Thwaites, Brad Lawton, Deirdre Sinnott and Hillel Cohen. After more than an hour inside, the activists were arrested and dragged out by police. All were charged with criminal trespass and kept in jail overnight.

Outside, the demonstration grew more militant. The many youthful protesters, chafing at police demands to remain across the street from the occupation site, began sneaking through the cop blockade. Soon 20 protesters were in front of the Republican office building, then 40.

Eventually, the demonstrators crossed the street en masse, blocking traffic and setting up a boisterous picket line in front of the office building. To the rhythm of drums, they shouted "Free Shaka! Free Mumia!"

Later about 60 people marched to the 17th Precinct, where the arrested activists were held. Protesters said they planned to return to Bush headquarters June 21 for a 24-hour vigil against the execution.

The demonstration was initiated by the International Action Center as part of the National Days of Resistance to Stop the Execution of Shaka Sankofa. Speakers included the IAC's Teresa Gutierrez, Kevin McGruder of Gay Men of African Descent, lesbian anti-racist author and activist Minnie Bruce Pratt, and a representative of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty. Imani Henry of Rainbow Flags for Mumia chaired the rally.

—Greg Butterfield


Hunger strike
against execution

On June 19, a group of Detroit religious, labor and community leaders completed the second day of a 5-day fast demanding that Texas Gov. George W. Bush halt the execution of Sankofa. The Central United Methodist Church and the New Bethel Baptist Church launched the hunger strike. Hundreds in those congregations heard about the struggle to save Sankofa's life.

The hunger strikers include community activist Shirley Sanders; Arnetta Grable of the Coalition Against Police Brutality, whose son was killed by Detroit cops; Groundwork for a Just World organizer Jeff Nelson; and David Sole, president of Auto Workers Local 2334. Sally Peck, a leading anti-death-penalty activist in Michigan, and Elena Herrada, a Latin community activist, joined the hunger strike on its second day.

On Day 2, the hunger strikers set up camp outside the Detroit City Council building, where they will remain all week. The council passed a resolution in mid-June calling for Sankofa's execution to be stopped.

Hunger strikers and supporters leaf let-ed people about the case. People on foot and in cars stopped to sign petitions demanding the execution be stopped. About 200 signatures were gathered and faxed to Bush.

A noontime rally was well attended and broke the Detroit media blockade with coverage from local TV, radio and newspapers. Later the hunger strikers joined a picket by cafeteria workers fighting for a contract at Ameritech phone company.

Lunch-hour rallies are planned every day at the Coleman Young Municipal Building.

—Cheryl LaBash


Death-penalty foes
seize guv's office

Hundreds of angry death-penalty abolitionists answered the call of the Boston Coalition for Mumia Abu-Jamal and executed a militant, lightning-quick occupation of the building housing the "Bush for President" campaign headquarters in Boston's Downtown Crossing on May 16.

Perhaps the panicked Republican staffers knew that the protestors had come with indictments charging Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Massachusetts Gov. Paul Cellucci with mass murder and conspiracy to commit murder for their roles in the serial killings of hundreds railroaded into Texas death row. Elevators were shut down and staffers hid behind locked doors. Police on call came running.

But they could not prevent reporters' question to their bosses that evening: "What about this man they call Shaka Sankofa?" Many New England media organizations covered the demonstration.

Saraivy Orench-Reinat, speaking for the Mumia Coalition, delivered the indictment, charging Bush with "130-plus counts of murder in the first degree, that is, premeditated murder, for the vicious and inhuman execution of prisoners on death row in the state of Texas ... and for the attempted murder of Shaka Sankofa (Gary Graham). [He was] just 17 years old when he was charged with capital murder--a violation of international law prohibiting minors from receiving death sentences."

The growing crowd of protestors jammed the rush hour streets in the shopping district. They chanted, "Hands off an inno cent man! Hands off Shaka Sankofa!"

Several times marchers outmaneuver ed police, taking and blocking major downtown streets, moving to the swift beat of drums. Loud calls of "Bush, Cellucci, we say no! The death penalty has got to go!" annoyed a few storeowners, but gathered large crowds of youths and commuting workers who joined in support.

Speakers from the International Action Center, Refuse & Resist, the Community Church of Boston, Steel workers Local 8751, and many others echoed Mumia Abu-Jamal's call to step up "unsparing protest" this summer to stop Sankofa's execution and to shake the conventions of the Republican and Democratic ruling parties.

This budding New England abolitionist coalition, full of youthful vigor and dead set on demolishing the prison-industrial complex, has announced plans to send thousands from the region to Philadelphia and Los Angeles to prohibit business as usual and win justice for the movement's leaders, such as Sankofa and Abu-Jamal.

—Steven Gillis

Demonstrations were also held in Austin, Atlanta, Cleveland, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Palo Alto, Calif., Providence, R.I., San Diego, Calif., and many other cities in the U.S. and around the world. Major demonstrations were scheduled for June 20 in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

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