Arrests Expected at U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, DC on 40th Anniversary of First Execution

Abolitionist Action Committee press release

Activists call on Nation to End the Death Penalty as State Executions hit Historic Lows

Members of the anti-death penalty Abolitionist Action Committee (AAC) and many faith leaders will stage a highly visual demonstration at the U.S. Supreme Court in the 10:00 am hour, Tuesday, January 17 to mark the 40th anniversary of the 1st execution under contemporary laws. A program featuring death row exonerees, murder victim family members and others, will take place the evening before.

“Executions, death sentences and capital indictments are at record lows across the nation, and only a handful of jurisdictions still use it aggressively,” said Bill Pelke, a spokesman for the Abolitionist Action Committee. “We are prayerfully calling on the new president and leaders in the few states where it is still used to stand down on the death penalty.”

40 years ago, on January 17, 1977, the State of Utah shot to death Gary Gilmore, who was executed in revenge for his murder of Ben Bushnell and Max Jenson. This was the 1st execution under the Supreme Court’s upholding of new death penalty laws in its 1976 ruling in Gregg v. Georgia. Since then there have been 1442 more executions. 5 more executions are scheduled in January already, including 1 in Virginia on January 18.

Dozens of participants from across the United States and representing numerous faith-based and civil rights oriented organizations (listed below) are expected to peacefully and visibly call for an immediate cessation of all executions in the United States through non-violent civil disobedience and the risk of arrest. They will display a 30-foot long banner and 40 posters – each poster listing by year the names of all the men and women executed in the United States since 1977.

Among the participants will be:

[SCADP Note: Three SCADP members will again be present for the action. In order to be able to march at the Women’s March on Washington on Jan. 21, we will not risk arrest this time, but rather help with logistics of the events. However, two of us have been arrested at this action in the past, one twice and one three times.]

* Numerous family members of homicide victims
* Derrick Jamison, a member of Witness to Innocence, survived 20 years on Ohio’s death row for a crime he had nothing to do with
* Randy Gardner, whose brother, like Gilmore, was executed in Utah by firing squad. “My Brother Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed June 18, 2010 by the same state and the same method as Gilmore,” says Gardner. “I believed then, and I still believe now, that the death penalty is morally wrong. I never condoned what my brother did, but when the state executes someone, they create yet another family that is damaged and grieving. We don’t have to kill to be safe from dangerous criminals and hold them accountable. It is time to abolish the death penalty.”
* Shane Claiborne, a leader in the Red Letter Christian movement and author of the book, Executing Grace. Claiborne will be joined by numerous other evangelical and other faith leaders.

Since 1997, a total of 48 arrests have been made of death penalty abolitionists for unfurling banners that read “STOP EXECUTIONS!” on the plaza or stairs leading to the front doors of the U.S. Supreme Court. This action has been repeated every 5 years. The tradition continues, and this year participation is increasing significantly.

This protest is organized by The Abolitionist Action Committee, an ad-hoc group of individuals committed to highly visible and effective public education for alternatives to the death penalty through nonviolent direct action. Participating organizations and individuals include:

Abolitionist Action Committee
Campaign for Nonviolence
Catholic Mobilizing Network
Center for Action and Contemplation
Consistent Life Network
Embrey Human Rights Program
Evangelicals for Social Action
Faith in Public Life
Journey of Hope … From Violence to Healing
National Council of Churches
People of Faith Against the Death Penalty
PICO Network LIVE FREE Campaign
RAW Tools
Red Letter Christians
Repairers of the Breach
We Stand With Love
Witness to Innocence