On a wet, dismal day in January, several days before the commencement of the Women’s March on Washington and the Presidential Inauguration, Eastern alumnus Shane Claiborne ’97 was one of the 18 people arrested for being a part of an anti-death penalty protest that took place on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court. These arrests make it evident that the controversy surrounding the death penalty is nowhere close to fading.
The Abolitionist Action Committee organizes protesters every five years on Jan. 17, the date that marks the first-ever execution after the Supreme Court lifted the death penalty halt in 1976. This year also happened to be the 40th anniversary of Gary Gilmore’s execution by firing squad in Utah in 1977. With determination and passion, approximately 80 protesters stood in front of the Supreme Court, chanting, singing hymns and holding signs, including a huge 30-foot banner that read “Stop Executions.” However, it is currently illegal to protest on the steps of the Supreme Court, and
the protesters accepted this fact as they stepped onto them. They were soon arrested. Some may argue that this act was disruptive to the community, but to the protestors, it was an act of civil disobedience. The protestors carried signs in an effort to convey their message in a powerful way: one listed the name of every person executed in the past four decades.
In an article on sojo.net, Claiborne states, “We are standing with families who have had their loved ones murdered and families who have had their loved ones executed or put on death row.” He continues: “Violence is a disease, not the cure. As families themselves say, remember our loved ones, but not with more killing. That’s our message today.”
Claiborne and the other demonstrators were released shortly thereafter. Despite having been arrested, they show no evidence of slowing down their crusade or demonstrating their beliefs on the death penalty.
Sources: sojo.net, Washington Examiner, WTOP
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