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D.C. Residents, Students Rally to Stop Execution of Troy Anthony Davis

Camille Augustin | , Howard University News Service | 9/19/2011, 9:38 a.m.
Troy Anthony Davis faces execution by legal injection./Courtesy Photo

Twenty years ago, Troy Anthony Davis was sentenced to death row in Georgia for the fatal shooting of a Caucasian police officer, Mark MacPhail in Savannah. On Monday (Sept. 19), the State Board of Pardons and Paroles in Georgia will hold a clemency hearing for Davis, 42, who faces execution by legal injection on Wednesday.

The fight for Troy Davis' justice was heard in the nation's capital as local residents, faculty and alumni joined students at Howard University for a rally on Friday afternoon.

"The young man is basically about to lose his life for something he did not do," said Rin McGrew, technical coordinator and faculty supervisor at the University of Maryland, who came out to support Davis.

Seven of the nine witnesses at Davis' trial have since recanted their testimony, adding to doubts surrounding the case. More than 600,000 people have signed petitions as part of international efforts to stop the execution for the fourth time. Davis' life was spared previously when the board issued a stay of execution or when the U.S. Supreme Court intervened.

"This is a classic example of what happens to black males all over the U.S.," McGrew said. "There wasn't enough exposure brought to this man's case, and we are out here trying to bring some exposure now."

Raising Awareness

Benjamin Woods, a graduate student in the political science department at Howard and president of Students Against Mass Incarceration (SAMI), said the main purpose of the rally was to raise awareness of the case. SAMI co-sponsored the rally with the campus NAACP chapter. Students at Morehouse University, Spelman College and Clark-Atlanta University have also rallied in support of Davis.

"We want the students to really take a stand," Woods said. "This is just the beginning. Having a rally isn't going to change the case. It will raise awareness, but we need people to be actively engaged on a consistent basis and trying to struggle around this system and raising awareness and trying to end it."

As the time ticked on, more students came to gather around the flagpole on the yard. Some hadn't heard of Troy Davis; others listened on to hear more. After sending out a tweet earlier the day of the noon rally, Jordan Rivers, a senior majoring in civil engineering, made his way to the yard.

"I knew this was something I wanted to support," Rivers said. "This is a huge issue in our community, and this is a very big event that we can start to rally people around and raise awareness of the bigger issue." Rivers said the bigger fight is larger than one individual and has to deal with the judicial system as a whole.

'Looking for a Scapegoat'

Jamil Muhammad, president of the Howard University Student Association from 1980 to 1981, took to the blow horn.

"Troy Davis is a young man who had the misfortune to be black and to be uncovered at a time when the police in Chatham County, Ga., were looking for a scapegoat," Muhammad said.

"They were looking for someone to pin this crime on, because a white police officer cannot die without a black person answering for that."

Muhammad said this country "is bifurcated and twisted, and it is unjust and wrong what happens in this country." He warned the crowd against allowing Troy Davis to become a victim of injustice.

"If we do, they will come for us, and some of the people they come for will be Howard grads."

Questioning Death Sentence

Audrey Cunningham, 52, a music teacher at A Touch of God Music School, Voice and Piano, said it was important to answer the question of why Davis faces execution.

"If they don't have enough proof, why is he being scheduled to die?" the Prince George's County resident asked. "It's not fair."

Cunningham said that corporate people who may have run-ins with the law get a slap on the wrist, while everyday people who have a "joint or have a little bit of weed get locked up for years and years."

Muhammad said that such inequities must end.

"We have to do something about standing together."

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