The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 71/No. 26      July 2, 2007

Atlanta rally: ‘End cruel, unusual
punishment of young Black man’
Georgia Attorney General appeals judge’s release order
(front page)
ATLANTA, June 14—About 200 people gathered on the steps of the State Capitol here today to demand freedom for Genarlow Wilson, a 21-year-old African American.

Wilson has served more than two years of a 10-year prison sentence, without the possibility of parole, for aggravated child molestation. He was convicted on that charge for engaging in consensual sex with a 15-year-old girl from his high school when he was 17.

On June 11, a Monroe County superior court judge ruled that Wilson’s sentence violated the state constitution as cruel and unusual punishment. The judge changed Wilson’s felony conviction to a misdemeanor, resentenced him to 12 months, and ordered his immediate release.

As Wilson’s family prepared to bring him home, however, State Attorney General Thurbert Baker blocked his release by announcing he would appeal the judge’s ruling to the Georgia Supreme Court.

Protest organizers included the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), The People’s Agenda, and several state legislators who are Black.

Several protesters noted they had supported Baker’s campaign for attorney general. Baker is African American.

“Everybody is worried about themselves and their political position, not justice,” B.J. Bernstein, Wilson’s lawyer, told the rally.

At one point the crowd chanted, “Hey hey, ho ho, Thurbert Baker’s got to go.”

“We have no other alternative but to hit the streets,” SCLC president Charles Steele said. “We must march for this issue, for this lack of justice, just like we marched for the 1965 Voting Rights bills. We are here for freedom for Genarlow Wilson.”

Leon Richardson, an electrician for the Atlanta public schools, told the Militant he came to the protest after he heard about it on the radio. “It’s a terrible injustice,” he said. “As a 21-year veteran of the U.S. submarine force, I never thought I’d see a day like this, a positive young man’s life snuffed. It’s about trying to make a political statement more than the root cause. If anything, he should have been counseled or something.”  
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