Thousands Protest at San Quentin

Revolution #28, December 26, 2005, posted at

About 5,000 people gathered at the gates of San Quentin prison in the San Francisco Bay Area on Monday night, December 12 to protest the execution of Stanley "Tookie" Williams. The red light over San Quentin showed that the prison was on lockdown for the execution. It was a diverse crowd: Black youth from San Francisco and the East Bay and Latino high school youth from San Jose; celebrities like Mike Farrell, Joan Baez, Sean Penn and others; religious forces opposed to the death penalty; former political prisoners; attorneys; people from human rights groups like Amnesty International, and college students.

At 12:30 a.m. people heard that Stanley Williams had been pronounced dead. Some were stunned and silent, others cried, and some chanted against the death penalty. A U.S. flag went up in flames. Rev. Charles Newsome, president of the Richmond chapter of the NAACP, walked through the gathering with a megaphone saying, "I'm tired of my people dying. It's time to do something about it. We talk, but we keep dying. They want us to keep talking. It's time to do something."

On the online version of the Black newspaper SF Bayview (12/14/05), Wanda Sabir wrote: "Not in our name, a slogan made popular at the start of the Iraq war, took on additional meaning as each of us silently considered the language of capital punishment: 'The people of the state of California.' Unless one consciously disassociates herself from the acts of terror committed on her behalf, then silence equals complicity. 'Ignorance of the law,' as we're told, 'is no excuse.' Neither is ignorance of harm committed by such laws in one's name by elected officials, whether they were the representatives of one's choice or not."

In the final hour before the execution, a message from Stanley Williams was read, requesting that people remember the lyrics of "Strange Fruit," Billie Holiday's searing blues ballad about southern lynching. And KPFA, the Pacifica radio network station, concluded its live broadcast of the protest outside San Quentin with the song.

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