Posted October 24, 2008
This morning’s “funeral for justice” ended with joyful laughter and hugs as local activists celebrated the second stay of execution for Troy Davis in two months. Bearing a casket marked “JUSTICE,” human rights activists walked the rainy streets of downtown Atlanta to deliver 140,000 petitions and a letter signed by over 100 clergy members to the Georgia Parole Board. A few minutes after entering the capitol, they emerged with the good news.
Last night, October 23, nearly a thousand supporters of Troy Davis rallied on the Capitol steps, just days before his scheduled lethal injection. The rally was part of a global day of action drawing attention to the case, which has become notorious around the world. Prosecutors lack physical evidence linking Davis the the 1989 murder of a Savannah police officer, and 80% of witnesses recanted their testimony, citing harassment and pressure for a speedy conviction for the murder of Mark MacPhail. The injustice of the Davis case highlights general problems with the death penalty.
Even before the stay was announced, spirits were high and the crowd was militant. Outrage about the Troy Davis case has stirred general opposition to the death penalty and other aspects of the criminal justice system. Even more importantly, the success of the mass mobilizations has energized the beginnings of a grassroots movement. In Atlanta, the movement to save Troy Davis has reached mass proportions – on the train home from the demonstration, passengers who saw my button and “I am Troy Davis” nametag were eager to hear the latest news.
The most powerful moment of the rally was a stirring speech delivered Troy’s sister, Martina Correia. Marina has added an eight year battle with cancer to her ongoing struggle against the system that has kept her brother on death row. I recorded her speech, but several parts are inaudible becuase of cheers to the crowd, so what follows is a rough, edited transcription. Correia and Troy’s mother, Virginia, were introduced by local rapper Michael Render, aka Killer Mike. Afterwards, Laura Moye of Amnesty International delivered a phone message from Troy. (Coincidentally, today is Laura’s birthday, so the stay of execution was a nice present.)
“It is amazing to me that Troy’s name is heard around the world. Today is a global day of action for Troy Davis in more than fifteen countries around the world and more than forty cities in the United States. And not just today. This has been going on all week long. And it will continue!
They say that we are defeated. They say that we have not won. But if Troy’s name is being heard in Madagascar, we have won! If his name is heard in Finland, we have won! If Troy Davis’ name is heard in England, we have won! If Troy Davis’ name is heard in New York City, we have won! It is heard in Detroit, South Carolina, California – we have won! The name “Troy Davis” is ringing in Savannah, Georgia.
And I’m going to tell you something. The whole Chatham County courthouse is shaking. Because they know they are lying, and they are coming down. That’s why [Chatham County prosecutor] Spencer Lawton is spouting all those lies in the newspaper. They don’t have any evidence against Troy Davis! They needed a bunch of children who were afraid, and bullied for hours and hours, to say that it was Troy Davis. They used people who had criminal records and threatened them with life in prison to say it was Troy Davis. But you know what? These people stood up against against a system that was breathing down their necks and said, “No! We lied against Troy.”
That Parole Board [across the street from the Georgia Capitol] heard witness after witness tell the truth about why Troy Davis is not guilty. There’s people like Garland Hunt on the Parole Board. Garland Hunt said, “We know all Black men carry guns. We know all Black men, you know, ‘homeboys’ are criminals.” That’s what Garland Hunt said to a preacher in this community.
Every chance they get, they butcher Amnesty International. But this is not just about Amnesty. The NAACP, National Action Network, Southern Center for Human Rights, Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, citizens all over, Campaign to End the Death Penalty. We got universities out here! We got clergy out here, from all faiths. This is about people, this is about human rights.
When you say “I am Troy Davis” you better take that seriously. Because if you don’t have money, if you’re a certain color, if you’re accused of killing a certain color person – in the justice system, you could be Troy Davis. They say that the death penalty is not racist. But there are only three people on death row for killing Black people. How many Black people lose their lives, all the time? How many poor white people lose their lives all the time? And how many rich people are over there on death row? None!
The Department of Corrections is not a corrective system. It is a system of vengeance and violence and destruction.
Seven out of nine eyewitnesses! Never in the history of Georgia. Seven out of nine eyewitnesses! Never in the history of the United States. No weapon. No physical evidence. Police coercion. Prosecutor misconduct.
My brother just turned forty years old. But they are going after children – thirteen, fourteen, fifteen years old. You should see the morale of the people in that prison, of the other inmates. They know that it is wrong; if Troy can’t get justice, nobody can.