"Stop the Executions" Rally in Youngstown, Jan. 14, 2007
Eye Wittness Report,
On Sun., Jan. 14, in spite of drenched clothing and the state's videocameras, a crowd of about 80 people maintained their high spirits at the driveway into the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown, OH. As a protest against the death penalty in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's birthday (Jan.15), it seemed appropriate that the sounds of "We Shall Overcome" rose up from the group, led by the activist community group Black on Black Crime from Cleveland which had brought a large contingent. They also led the crowd in their trademark chant of "No truth! No justice! No peace!" Soon after that, additional chanting started up around the huge "Stop the Executions!" banner, "What do we want? To end the death penalty! When do we want it? Now!"
In addition to the local groups strongly represented, Youngstown Prison Forum, LOOP (Loved Ones Of Prisoners), and Youngstown Peace Action, Cleveland organizations were there in force. The Cleveland Lucasville Five Defense Committee, one of the sponsoring organizations, arranged for a van and coordinated a car caravan. The Cleveland Coalition Against the Death Penalty brought people and signs. And Black on Black Crime provided not just many carloads, but all of the energy to match. Look out, State of Ohio, here they come!
Many people were there because of a prisoner letter campaign in which prisoners did outreach to other prisoners and to family and friends to bring people to the rally. As relatives held up signs with their loved ones' names, it became a way to network for future organizing to cement a coordinated strategy for success. Some of the mothers have set up a website of their own, www.ourfight4justice.com. Check it out.
Sunday's rally was a kickoff to a new campaign and a new era. We have a new governor in Columbus. We have a new level of coordination and energy. We will be challenging the barbaric, racist death penalty which targets the poor and murders the innocent. And we will be making our case for the overturning of all Lucasville rebellion-related convictions which were false and unjust in the first place. Thirteen years in solitary confinement is way more than long enough for crimes these men did not commit in the first place. We're on the move!
Death penalty opponents protest at state prison
Protesters promoted the cause of prisoners charged in the Lucasville riot.
By Don Shilling, The Vindicator
Jan. 15, 2007
YOUNGSTOWN - About 50 opponents of the death penalty gathered outside the Ohio State Penitentiary to send a message. "We have a new governor," said Susan Schnur, 49, of Cleveland. "We're hoping this is a starting point. We want Governor Strickland to see us."
The protest Sunday was organized by activists in Cleveland but also included Youngstown-area residents. The protesters were allowed to gather, chant and display signs on the side of a driveway leading into the Coitsville-Hubbard Road prison, which is home to Ohio's death row inmates. They staged the protest on the Martin Luther King Day weekend because of King's involvement in social justice.
Besides their general opposition to the death penalty, the protesters also were trying to raise public attention of "the Lucasville five."
The five men were found guilty of additional charges after the 1993 riot at a state prison in Lucasville. Atty. Staughton Lynd of Niles recently wrote the book "Lucasville - The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising" that claims the men were unfairly charged and had nothing to do with the death of prison guards.
Sharon Danann, 56, of Cleveland received a call from one of those Lucasville prisoners a few months ago and gathered her activist friends to form the Lucasville Five Defense Committee. They are pushing for pardons for all men charged in the riot because they say the investigation was not handled properly.
Danann and others are part of groups in Cleveland that fight for social causes. Danann said the turnout for the protest exceeded her expectations.
Reasons for opposition
Carl Miller, 19, of Berea said he joined because he thinks capital punishment is a "tool of the rich."
A common theme among the protesters was "You never see a rich man executed."
Olivia Flak, 34, of Youngstown said she is against the death penalty because society isn't working hard enough to help people escape poverty.
"Someone may commit a crime, but they don't know any other way of life.
That's why I'm against capital punishment," she said.
Rain pelted the protesters, who started in a parking lot of a church adjacent to the prison but then moved to the waterlogged grass that ran along the prison driveway. Their spirits were high, however.
Olivia Flak's mother, Chris Flak, 52, of Youngstown huddled under an umbrella and summed it up for everyone who came out.
"On a rainy day like this you have to have it in your heart," she said.
Photos: Screenshots of WFMJ 21 (NBC) News Coverage
Protesters Gather At State Penitentiary In Youngstown
WYTV (ABC), Youngstown (Video)
Jan. 14, 2007
Ohio's first execution of the year is scheduled for next week. But some don't want it to happen now or ever. Today those against the death penalty held a peaceful protest in Youngstown. About 30 anti -death penalty protesters hold signs and chant in front of the gates at the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown; home to Ohio's death row. "I don't believe the human race should be playing God. God would not want this. It's wrong we should not be judging people." Said protest or Shirley Saunders of Euclid.
Next week Kenneth Biros is expected to die by lethal injection in Lucasville unless the Governor wants more time to review the case. Biros killed Tammy Engstrom back in 1991 and scattered her body parts around Trumbull County. Engstrom's sister Debi Heiss says in regard to the protest., "Let them bring Ken Biros home with them and give him a few knives and put him in a locked room with one of their loved ones for an hour...Then maybe they would change their opinions." Heiss adds, "The case has caused a financial burden on them as well as emotional...What about the victim's."
Story Created: Jan 14, 2007 at 6:45 PM EST
*** Press Release ***
MLK Rally: Rethinking Ohio's Death Penalty
When: Jan. 14, 2007, 2-4 p.m.
Where: Ohio State Penitentiary, 878 Coitsville-Hubbard Rd., Youngstown, OH
Context: It's Time to Rethink Ohio's Death Penalty
Ohio has executed 24 prisoners since it reinstated the death penalty, after introducing lethal injections in 1999. More than half of these executions have taken place since 2004, making Ohio the state with the second-highest execution rate, following Texas. There are three upcoming executions scheduled in January (Kenneth Biros, Jan. 23) and February of 2007 (James Filiaggi, Feb. 13 & Christopher Newton, Feb. 27).
Ohioans concerned about the arbitrariness of death penalty sentencing, as well as the legality of lethal injections, emphasize that it's time to rethink the death penalty. And incoming Gov. Ted Strickland has made a good start: Last Friday, Strickland announced that he would not approve the execution of Kenneth Biros, scheduled for Jan. 23.
Event: Martin Luther King Day Anti-Death Penalty Vigil
In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, there will be a rally at the gates of Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP), Sunday, Jan. 14, 2-4 PM. OSP is the supermax prison where most of Ohio's death row prisoners are held. It is located at 878 Coitsville-Hubbard Rd., Youngstown. This event is a collaborative effort of the Cleveland Lucasville Five Defense Committee, the Youngstown Prison Forum and LOOP (Loved Ones Of Prisoners).
Transportation is being organized from Cleveland in the form of either a charter bus or vans. For reservations, call (216) 481-6671 or email:
Suggested donation is $12, more if you can, less if you can't.
for the Cleveland Lucasville Five Defense Committee
Sharon Danann, Lucasville Five Defense Committee (216) 481-6671
Theresa Lyons, LOOP (Loved Ones Of Prisoners) (330) 207-5132
LOOP (Loved Ones Of Prisoners), P.O. Box 2306, Youngstown, OH 44509