D.C. Diary: Crying out

Feb. 28, 2000
The Supreme Court
9 a.m.

The quiet calm outside the Supreme Court building was broken Monday as thousands of people gathered to protest the death penalty. Next to the nation’s highest authority on justice about 3,000 people – 20 of them GW students – came together in a nonviolent demonstration against capital punishment

I believe the death penalty is simply wrong, said freshman Lynne Hassey, who participated in the demonstration. It’s murder. It’s racist.

GW students from the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Progressive Student Union were represented in the demonstration. These students, along with thousands of others from the D.C. area and across the nation voiced their opinions on the matter.

It has been proven that the death penalty does not deter crime, said Lauren Lastappes, a junior in GW’s chapter of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty. I think it is one of the most egregious acts of the criminal justice system. It’s so horrible because once done, it is irreversible.

Carrying signs that read Abolish the Death Penalty and Police Brutality, We, the people charge the state with first-degree murder and Freedom: The other F-Word, the demonstrators showed their passion for the cause. Loud chants of They say death row, we say hell no! filled the area as passing cars honked in support of the rally.

The demonstrators also voiced their concerns for the fair trial of Mumia Abu-Jamal, an African-American journalist sentenced to death for the murder of a police officer.

The case of Mumia was one of the focuses of the demonstration, senior Heather Saslovksy said. It is one of the more specific issues that people were fighting along with the broader issue of the death penalty.

The demonstration remained nonviolent, but some people lay down in the streets in an act of civil disobedience. Others intentionally crossed police barricades on to the steps of the Supreme Court designed to keep them out. Police arrested people for civil disobedience, according to the student protestors.

I think the demonstration went very well, Saslovsky said. We all remained nonviolent, which was a pretty big deal considering the amount of people that were there.

The demonstration was positive in the eyes of the students who said they felt they accomplished something.

Demonstrations always reinvigorate people, Lastappes said. I am overjoyed that 20 GW students took part in the demonstration. Students have the potential to be a very powerful force in changing things in this country.

Happy with the results of the demonstration, the students are now waiting for the next step to ending the death penalty. The Campaign to End the Death Penalty’s next event will include an address via speakerphone from in inmate on death row.

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