The Militant(logo) 
    Vol.60/No.22           June 3, 1996 
Protests Against Death Penalty, Irish Deportation  

MARIN COUNTY, California - At 12:08 a.m. May 3, Keith Daniel Williams was executed in San Quentin State Prison by lethal injection. Williams's last appeal to the United States Supreme Court was rejected two hours before the execution. Williams, the fourth person to be executed in this state since the death penalty was reinstated, had been on death row since 1979.

In the hours leading up to the execution, a crowd of about 300 gathered to protest the state-sanctioned murder. Young Socialists for Harris and Garza campaigned for a socialist alternative to capitalist politics behind the banner of "Abolish the death penalty to the back pages of history!"

Members of the Human Rights Defense Committee came from San Jose to show their opposition to the death penalty. The committee was formed in April in response to the fatal police shooting of Gustavo Soto Mesa. Josť Luis Candelarro, a 37-year-old construction worker and member of the committee, said, "Murder by the state is a murder like any other. No one has the right to take the life of another person."

Rachel Peres, another committee activist, stated, "The death penalty is not going to bring justice." Among the speakers was Daryl Meyers, whose son JoJo White was murdered in San Francisco on January 19. He spoke of his son's trip to Cuba as an event that changed JoJo's life and raised his social consciousness.

One of the few pro-death penalty demonstrators interrupted Meyers, aggressively yelling, "Don't we have a voice too?" Meyers responded, "Yes! The majority of this country's politicians, judges, and mainstream media support your view! Now it's our turn!"

Among the speakers, a taped message was played from Mumia Abu- Jamal, a Black political activist on Pennsylvania's death row. His message called attention to the racist character of the death penalty, citing statistics that show the percentage of Blacks on death row is far greater than their proportion of the population in this country.

California's death row is the largest in the United States, with 439 inmates. More than 39 percent of them are Black, while Blacks represent 7 percent of this state's population.

The Williams case is a typical example of the workings of the bourgeois justice system. In this case, his history of mental illness was suppressed by the state during the trial. His appeals to revoke the death sentence based on this suppression of evidence were denied.

Steve Gordon and Travis Lea are Young Socialists for Harris and Garza in San Francisco.


CHICAGO - Some 30 people gathered at the British Consulate here May 5 to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Bobby Sands, the first of 10 Irish prisoners to die on a hunger strike in the early 1980s. Participants held signs of the 10 hunger strikers and placards reading, "No more British stalling" and "800 years, it's time to go."

The featured speaker was Matt Morrison, a former prisoner who is facing deportation back to the north of Ireland. He currently resides in St. Louis. Morrison spoke about Bobby Sands and said when Sands died 15 years ago, he was 100 yards away doing time in the same prison.

"I can tell you that no criminal would've died for his convictions the way that Sands did," Morrison said. "They tried to brand Sands a criminal. I can tell you now with all of the strength I can muster that Sands was no criminal in 1981 and Matt Morrison is no criminal in 1996!" he said to applause.

"It's time for people to start realizing what it means that this so-called antiterrorist legislation was passed in this country," Morrison said. "We know from experience in Ireland that emergency legislation has a way of becoming very permanent. We also know that bills like this are used to harass political people and working people."

This demonstration was one of the various activities organized by the Irish American Student Organization. They have been showing a film titled An Ordinary Day, which was made by the residents of the Lower Ormeau Road in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

In August 1995, the rightist Orange marches came into the predominantly Catholic neighborhood. The British army hemmed the residents of the community while protecting and supporting the Orange Order's march.

The video chronicles many instances of police brutality and makes a good case for the slogan "Troops out now!"

Tami Peterson is a member of the Young Socialists and Irish Northern Aid.  
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