Honoring Life Event in Spokane Draws 150 People to Learn About Ending the Death Penalty
“There are those of us who will not give up until the death penalty has ended, until this country is about saving lives and not killing people and throwing them away for making mistakes.”
Those were the words of Jason Baldwin, guest speaker at a very successful public education event held in Spokane on July 21st. Honor Life: Abolish the Death Penalty was put on by Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane’s Inland Northwest Death Penalty Abolition Group (INDPAG).
Over 150 people attended; most were newcomers to the issue and to our work to end the death penalty in Washington. Several factors contributed to the event’s success.
Preceding it was a free showing of the documentary Paradise Lost chronicling the 1993 trials of Jason Baldwin, Jessie Misskelley, and Damien Echols, who became known as “the West Memphis Three.” The film was shown at a local downtown theater to provide background and stir up interest before the event.
The personal invitations, outreach to organizations, churches, and politicians, and posters displayed throughout town, along with an event announcement in the local press produced amazing results. A local radio station aired a live hour-long telephone interview with Jason the Monday before the event, and their daily news played back an excerpt later in the week.
We purposely planned a lively and casual gathering to draw people to the event and also to put some life into a grim subject. Since summer particularly is a tough time to attract folks to make time for serious contemplation, we decided to hold the event outdoors. We booked the Saranac Rooftop Garden and provided light picnic-type foods and cold drinks. The live music performed by The Terrible Buttons was a wonderful touch; they played acoustic folk music as the guests were filing onto the patio. The guests also were encouraged to have a snack and lemonade or iced tea, and to mingle before the program started. Besides the colorful tables with fresh fruit and flowers, two tables were covered with educational literature and resources – including signup sheets for getting involved, the SJA postcards, and flyers.
Our group happens to have three members with relatives on Death Rows, in three different states. We decided to put faces on “The Row” by displaying framed collages of these families, identifying their loved ones and the prisons they are living in. I am one of those members; my sister has been surviving on Death Row in California for 17 years. I had the privilege of introducing Jason Baldwin and sharing some of my story and my sister’s case. I also introduced my newly published book covering the trial and life of my sister, titled CAGES. The spectators were visibly touched by the humanity all of us brought to the Death Row dilemma.
We learned a few things for the next event, but overall we learned that planning ahead and having many hands to delegate necessary tasks can bring gratifying results.
Here’s some links to the press coverage of Honor Life: Abolish the Death Penalty:
Spokane Faith and Values: Group Fights to Abolish the Death Penalty
The Inlander: A Year of Freedom
Information on the book Cages (excerpts from the book, link to the blog, and access to ordering CAGES)