A Death Penalty Protest

By Feral

Greetings All, I am an anarchist who was arrested in Huntsville, Texas Thursday night, June 22nd, in the attempt to stop the state from murdering Shaka Sankofa (also known as Gary Graham.) This is a firsthand account of the day. Our cases are still pending, so I won't use any names.

I first arrived with Houston Food Not Bombs outside the Walls Unit of the Huntsville State Penitentiary around 10:00am. The police had cordoned off the area with a checkpoint at the top of the hill about 100 yards away from the protest. The security was very restrictive, with no backpacks or coolers allowed, and lots of pat-downs and searches. Food Not Bombs set up at the bottom of the hill with crates of sandwiches and water. Because we couldn't get our cooler in, we spent a lot of time going up and down the hill refilling clear plastic jugs.

The police presence was very heavy, both around the prison and throughout town, and was bolstered by grey-shirted prison guards.

The crowd was at least 400 strong, and the energy early on was intense. At one point, the rally took to the streets of Huntsville, blocking traffic and making our voices heard. Chants included "The whole world is watching, stop the legal lynching," and "No justice, no peace, til Shaka's released." The march went into the low-income area of Huntsville for a while and got some of the locals to join the struggle with us back at the prison unit.

As the day wore on, Food Not Bombs continued working hard distributing water, which was badly need as the heat was over 100 degrees.

As the execution time of 6:00pm drew closer, the crowd began to get louder and march around the perimeter of the cordoned off protest zone. At five minutes to six, a group of protesters tore down one of the orange road barricades. Several people then rushed over the barricade and charged toward the execution house where Shaka was being held. The police and guards seemed very surprised and off-guard, but through sheer numbers managed to stop us. I lost track of the others when I was tackled from behind and then found myself face down on the ground with at least three officers holding me down and cuffing me tightly.

I was led/carried/forced to a van across the street, where they loaded all eight of us. Two of us had cuts and abrasions on their faces from being thrown onto the pavement (one of whom had a mask that was pulled down around his neck and used to choke him), one had her head knocked on the van's doorjamb, and we all had cuff-marks for a while.

The eight of us were taken to Walker County Jail. One of us was released because she is a minor, and the rest were charged with disorderly conduct. Later, the charges were upped to Criminal Trespass, a class B misdemeanour carrying possible jail time.

Later, another woman was arrested after throwing an empty plastic bottle which hit a police officer on the arm. She was given the ridiculous charge of felony assault, and we are concentrating most of our defence efforts on her case.

The inmates in jail were very friendly and supportive when they found out who we were, especially in the women's cell where they had a television and could watch the news. We were subjected to constant minor harassment by the guards, waking us up constantly, calling us smart-asses when we asked to see our lawyer, moving us from holding cell to holding cell, etc, but nothing major.

We were kept in jail overnight and I hear that two busloads of Houston protesters parked on the freeway and refused to leave until a lawyer could come in and see that we were OK. Some of our friends and supporters stayed in Huntsville that night to form an impromptu legal team and got us out on bond the next morning.

Unfortunately, all our actions were not enough, and the state was still able to murder Shaka Sankofa around 9:00pm. I stand by what we did,though, and I am glad that they didn't get away with putting Shaka to death without at least having to arrest someone. I think this also put more pressure on the bastards and raised the whole level of resistance there.

What remains left is for us to make sure Shaka's final words ring true: "You can kill the revolutionary, but you can't kill the revolution."


In struggle,

Houston FNB/ABC