Socialist, anti-war groups call death penalty ‘racist’

Michael Lewis

Attendees were greeted at the door of the Kiva last night by signs saying, “Stop the racist death penalty!” as they filed in to attend the forum discussion about injustices concerning the death penalty.

The event was sponsored by Kent State’s International Socialist Organization and the Anti-War Committee.

The Shogun Assassins opened the event with a debut performance, singing about the love of humanity before a crowd of more than 40 students and visitors.

Event coordinator Marquis Belton, senior English major, said the criminal system is being used as a tool to inflict cruelty on the poor.

“Stop believing the lies of the death penalty being used as a deterrent against crime,” Belton said.

Three forum members spoke about various characters and issues concerning the death

penalty.

Kent State graduate Justin Hons, a disc jockey on “Guerilla Radio” for WAN 91.1, discussed Mumia Abu-Jamal. Jamal, an award-winning journalist sentenced to death in 1982 for shooting a Philadelphia police officer, publicly disavowed his death sentence while claiming police corruption, unconstitutional racist practices and due process violations. A movement organized to fight for Jamal’s innocence.

“The only reason he survived this long is because of the movement,” Hons said. “If Mumia Abu-Jamal has nothing important to say, why are so many powerful people trying to kill him and shut him up?”

Nathan Solinsky, senior conflict management and spokesperson for Amnesty International, organized his argument to rally worldwide support against the death penalty. He said more than half the countries in the world, nearly 120 nations, abolished the practice of death penalty.

“The death penalty increases crime and violence,” Solinsky said. “It’s a brutal institution that promotes corruption.”

Chris Kok, senior international relations student and Daily Kent Stater columnist, spoke about Stan “Tookie” Williams, co-founder of the Los Angeles-based Crips gang in 1971 during the forum.

Williams, a five-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee, was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 1981. He received a Presidential Call to Service Award from President George Bush in early 2005. On December 13, Williams was executed in California after being denied clemency by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“It’s a crime when the government executes a prisoner who could be reformed and turned into a positive contributor,” Kok said. “We hope students organize against the death penalty. That’s the only way progress will occur in America.”

Contact safety reporter Michael Lewis at [email protected]