The UT Amnesty International chapter held a protest Tuesday at West Mall in support of Rodney Reed, who was convicted of murder in 1998 and has been on death row in Texas for 23 years.
Amnesty International is the largest human rights organization in the world, and UT’s chapter works to spread awareness about human rights abuses, according to the organization’s websites. A couple dozen protestors encouraged bystanders and nearby students to take flyers and sign clemency letters on Reed’s behalf.
Zoe Marshall, a UT Amnesty International officer, said chapter members have been closely following Reed’s case, and they believe the evidence shows he is innocent. She said the chapter’s top priority is engaging with and lobbying for this issue in state government.
“This case really matters, not just because it involves the death penalty but because Rodney Reed is an innocent man, and he was not given a fair trial,” history senior Marshall said. “Amnesty International stands for fairness and justice for everyone, especially in an instance where this man could be facing death. It’s a case that has lots of urgency for us right now.”
Members of Rodney Reed’s family were also present at the protest, including his brother Rodrick and stepsister Wana.
“I have been in support of my brother from day one, and I will continue to support him as long a I have a breath in my body,” Rodrick said. “It’s very important that my family and these students get involved because it affects everybody. It is injustice, and when you do it to one person, you’ve done it to us all.”
Public relations sophomore Tavia Zepeda said she believes it was “pretty clear” that Reed’s race and socioeconomic status has to do with him being convicted.
“It’s almost a never ending story of white police officers taking advantage of black lives,” Zepeda said.
Government senior Jenny Matthews said the fight for justice ultimately rests in the hands of the current generation of college students.
“The prelaw students here are going to be the ones trying cases like this in the future,” Matthews said. “We’re the future leaders of America … The people in power seem to have no interest in this. Their only interest is in holding up the status quo. They’re not interested in getting people like Rodney Reed out, and we need to change that.”