Death penalty protests continue after Davis’ death

Rachel Thompson

At the Texas Capitol on Friday, students commemorated the death of a man they say was wrongly executed and protested against the death penalty.

Troy Davis was executed in Atlanta by lethal injection on Wednesday, Sept. 21, after being on death row for 20 years. He was convicted in 1991 for killing a police officer.

Protesters held up red and black signs during the demonstration that read, “End the death penalty” and “We are all Troy Davis.” The event began with its three organizers holding up one of their signs, and as the evening went on, protesters trickled in on bikes and on foot, ready to show their support.

One student at the protest said a group of people gathered outside the Capitol on Wednesday, hoping for a last-minute stay for the execution.

“It was excruciating,” said computer sciences senior Ruben Fitch about Wednesday night. “There were about 40 people out here protesting, hoping he would get a stay. We were out here for a good while.”

According to the Associate Press, during Davis’ 1991 trial no physical evidence was presented, and seven of the nine witnesses against Davis have gone back on their testimonies, saying they were pressured by police.

Before the execution, the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles received more than 630,000 letters asking for a pardon for Davis. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former President Jimmy Carter and 51 members of Congress all sent letters, and the Board rejected pleas by Davis’ lawyers on Sept. 20.

Davis insisted he was innocent to his final breath.

Davis’ death led Plan II Honors senior Victoria Hopper to organize Friday’s protest, and she said she gathered support by creating a Facebook event.

“We decided we were irritated by what was happening,” Hopper said. “We can’t support a justice system that has irrevocable consequences.”

Hopper got the protest together with the help of two friends, Plan II Honors seniors Jamie Boyle and Melanie Scruggs. All three reached out in various ways to notify others about the protest, hoping to draw support for the demonstration against the death penalty.

“The Troy Davis case has given this issue a lot of momentum,” Hopper said.

The protesters were not only UT students, but other Austin residents and passersby also felt compelled to show their support for Davis.

“We feel like this issue of the death penalty is timely because of the Troy Davis case,” Scruggs said.