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News :: Human Rights
Rally to Save Tookie Williams (Article and Photos)
05 Dec 2005
Rally to Save Tookie Williams (Article and Photos)
by Carl Saturday, Dec. 03, 2005 at 5:35 PM
Click on image for a larger version

Click on image for a larger version

Click on image for a larger version

Hundreds of supporters of condemned youth activist and Nobel nominee Stan Tookie Williams rallied Saturday, December 3rd, 2005 in South Los Angeles' Leimert Park.

Hundreds of supporters of Stan Tookie Williams, a Nobel-nominated activist and author working to end gang violence and counsel troubled youth, rallied Saturday, December 3rd, 2005 in South Los Angeles' Leimert Park. Mr. Williams is a death row inmate at San Quentin who is scheduled to be executed on December 13th, just ten days from the date of the rally, unless Governor Schwarzenegger intervenes to commute his sentence to life without parole.

Speakers included a broad array of youth workers, former gang members, ministers of local churches, anti-death penalty activists and others. The mood was positive but urgent.

Speaker after speaker placed the onus of Mr. WIlliams' life or death squarely upon the shoulders of Governor Schwarzenegger, who is meeting with Mr. WIlliams' representatives this December 8tth, a mere 5 days prior to his scheduled date of execution. Schwarzenegger has not revealed anything regarding his present thinking on the subject, stating only that he takes it seriously and plans to consider it carefully.

It is indeed the case that the Governor now holds the power of life or death over Mr. Williams, and the consequences of his decision will be laid squarely at his feet, whatever he decides. Attendees were urged to keep up the pressure on the Governor, whos phone number is 916-445-4633 (apparently only actually answered by humans during business hours), and whose email address is governor (at) (available 24 horurs). Full contact incormation can be found at and also at


The case of Stanley "Tookie" Williams raises serious questions regarding the fundamental goals of our criminal justice system. Central among these is whether that system exists to protect society, or is instead a means for
carrying out vengeance against those who, at some time in their lives, have caused harm to others.

It is generally acknowledged that Williams is not, at the present time, any threat to society. It is also beyond dispute that Williams has, for the past eleven years, encouraged young people to reject the nihilism of gang life, and has, through his published writings, provided valuable
and intimate insights into the forces that propel so many young people, especially those from poor communities of color, into gangs. For this work, he has been nominated for the Nobel Prize--not once, but seven times.

To say that our present system neglects the task of rehabilitation would be a phenomenal understatement. But the fact that a prisoner who has somehow managed to rehabilitate himself within this unsupportive environment nonetheless remains on a path toward imminent execution shows the degree to which this system has strayed from
any concern that its actions be of real benefit to society, and instead has embraced a crude and unthinking retribution.

Williams' writings are not just addressed to at-risk youth; when he writes about the conditions that lead youth into gangs, and that make incarceration such a thoroughly unredeeming experience for all but the most remarkable inmates, he is talking directly to all of us. These are conditions of poverty, unemployment and racism that we can usefully address with social programs, education, and police and prison reform, if only we would stop blaming those caught up in them long enough to take a good look at what needs to be done.

There are thousands of others languishing in our prisons who lack the determination and eloquence to communicate the roots of their dilemma to the public. When a rare voice arises among them that brings this human crisis to our attention, should our first impulse be to silence it? Such
a response can only encourage denial and lead to the further disintegration of our communities.

Williams' main hope of avoiding death is a clemency order from Governor Schwarzenegger. I would urge readers to contact the governor regarding such an order at governor (at) Additional contact and other information can be found at and

This work is in the public domain
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