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Death Row, Hell No

by staff |
July 1, 2000
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America's rulers are serial killers. They have killed before and left to their own devices, they will kill again. Would-be President George Bush has turned the Texas Department of Corrections into a murder machine. Al Gore has never been in a position to sign a death warrant, but he has made it clear that he would have no problem doing so.

In Pennsylvania, an innocent man, former Black Panther and journalist, Mumia Abu Jamal sits on death row. He has been convicted of a crime he never committed. If the authorities have their way, he will die for being Black and a revolutionary.

The privileged and powerful love the death penalty. It sends a clear message: we can take away everything, including your life. In the United States today, millions are impoverished. Our country is a prison house of nations, where African Americans, Chicanos, Native and Asian Peoples are systematically held down. The unequal application of death penalty speaks volumes: It is a powerful tool for maintaining the inequality that is woven into the fabric of this society.

On June 22, the powers that be, took the life of Gary Graham/Shaka Sankofa. On death row for almost 20 years, Sankofa endured beatings, and the worst abuse that Texas authorities could dish out. When the time came to face his executioner, Sankofa did so with a degree of courage and clarity that every person who wants to change this society can learn from.

In his last statement, Sankofa said "This is what happens to black men when they stand up and protest for what is right and just. We refuse to compromise, we refuse to surrender the dignity for what we know is right. But we will move on, we have been strong in the past. We will continue to be strong as a people. You can kill a revolutionary, but you cannot stop the revolution."

The execution of Shaka Sankofa was a crime. A crime that can, should, and will be avenged.

Now we must seize the time. In the near future, the courts will be making a decision on the case of Mumia Abu Jamal. It will decide whether new evidence, evidence of Mumia's innocence can be heard. Already, the powerful mass movement that has been built around this case has twice stayed the hand of the executioner. This is a decisive moment to turn up the heat.

There is a growing awareness that the death penalty has to go. The death penalty has been, and remains, an exercise in legal lynching. Candidates for President need to be hit on this issue again and again. On the campaign trial, some people are getting away with murder. The time has come for this to come to an end!