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Rosa Parks Day

December 8th, 2005 7:06 PM

The 1,000th Execution in the US

From: renny cushing
To: contributions@michaelmoore.com
Sent: Saturday, December 03, 2005 7:53 PM
Subject: Rosa Parks Day

Dear Michael Moore,

On Rosa Parks Day I joined with 16 other people in a nonviolent effort to prevent the State of North Carolina from carrying out the 1000th execution in this country since 1977. We were arrested and will go to trial in January. Here is the statement I wrote to explain to the officials at Central Prison why I was compelled to go to the death house to stop the killing of Vietnam Veteran Kenneth Boyd.

Statement of Renny Cushing
Central Prison
Raleigh, North Carolina
December 1, 2005
Eve of the 1000th Execution in the US since 1976

We are hours away from reaching a tragic milestone in the country---the 1000th execution since 1976. At this solemn moment, inside the death house, inside the Central Prison, the final preparations are being made to take a helpless human being from his prison cell, strap him on a gurney, put a needle in his arm, and pump poison in his veins to kill him. The execution will signal a thousand violations of human rights, a thousand caskets filled by ritual killings carried out by government employees.

One homicide is one too many. A thousand times that weighs on the conscience of us all, and demands that people speak and act to end more killing.

Seventeen years ago in my family home in a small town in New Hampshire, two blasts from a shotgun turned my father’s chest into hamburger and killed him in front of my mother’s eyes. For me and my family, contemplating what should be done in the aftermath of murder is not an intellectual exercise; it is part of our every day life. I share with all survivors of homicide victims the experience of the pain of the funeral parlor, the emptiness of the graveyard. I never forget my father, and never forget the victims of criminal murder.

I often hear proponents of the death penalty claim that another killing in response to a murder is something society must do for victims like myself, that society needs the death penalty, must have the death penalty in order provide an execution solution for victims’ pain. Those who, in the name of victims, advocate responding to one human rights violation with another human rights violation, fail to understand the journey victims make in the aftermath of the homicide of a loved one.

Victims need and deserve support. Victims want accountability, they want to be protected, they want justice and they want to heal.

All of society needs to embrace victims of crime, and provide means for victims to obtain material, emotional and spiritual support. Our public safety, courts, criminal justice and corrections systems, can and should help victims find security and justice, and do so without another collateral killing. As for helping victims heal, everyone needs to recognize that healing is a process, not an event. Offering up an event, an execution, as a balm to a victims’ pain is a false promise. Emulating the actions of a killer by killing a killer does not, and can not, bring back a loved one.

Killing the man who murdered my dad, who took my father’s human right to life away from him, would not return him from the grave. It would not deter crime or make me or my family or my community any safer. It would only create another grieving family.

I oppose the death penalty because it is bad for victims. As the son of a homicide victim, I stand in public opposition to more killing, to the death penalty. Not in my name can the state kill. I will not, I can not be silent and complicit in the ongoing practice in the United States of human rights violations that each execution represents.

Fifty years ago today on a bus in Montgomery Alabama a seamstress named Rosa Parks refused to abide by the legal dictates that violated her human and civil rights to equality under the law. Segregation, the denial of human dignity and discrimination on the basis of race was part of the civil and criminal law in many states of this nation, including North Carolina, a half century ago. Ms. Parks decision to resist the laws that discriminated against people of African descent by refusing to move to the back of the city bus was a simple act of courage, a moral assertion that no law and no system of government could take away her basic rights to dignity and equality as a person. Her conscience guided her, and she in turn inspired others, to help make possible what we can now see 50 years later was inevitable—an end to legal segregation that violated the human right to equality under the law.

The death penalty is a violation of the human right to life and the human right to be free from torture. In this country the death penalty is a vestige of a time when people were chattel slaves and a time when apartheid was the law of the land.

Tonight, with the 1000th execution imminent, remembering the principled act of Rosa Parks reminds us of the moral challenges that confront us at this point in history.

Human Rights involve responsibilities. A fundamental responsibility of us all is to be vigilant in protecting the human rights of others. Tonight, my personal conscience accepts the human responsibility to oppose the violation of human rights that is the death penalty. Acting with the power of nonviolence in the face of violence, I enter the grounds of the Central Prison to defend human rights, bear witness against killing in my name, killing in the name of victims, killing in the name of society. I seek to occupy the death house to halt the 1000th execution, and with my body prevent the flow of poison to the prisoner’s veins.

My intention is not to commit a crime, but to prevent one.

I am confident that my efforts tonight at crime prevention will be recognized. If not today by those who administer the laws, then by those who 50 years from now who will look back and ask how it was that back in the year 2005 governments operated death houses where human beings were killed. Like the human rights violations of slavery and apartheid, the death penalty will be relegated to a barbaric past.

Renny Cushing

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