For the 20th year in a row, a group of death penalty protesters is holding a four-day demonstration in front of the Supreme Court seeking an end to capital punishment.
The protest is timed to coincide with the June 29 anniversary of the court's 1972 ruling in Furman v. Georgia, which halted capital punishment, and the July 2 anniversary of Gregg v. Georgia, which reinstated it in 1976.
Nearly 90 people are participating, according to spokesman Scott Langley, and some of those are on a liquid-only fast to dramatize their opposition to the death penalty. The demonstration, sponsored by the Abolitionist Action Committee, will end tonight with a "closing circle" at 11:30 p.m.
The demonstrators are holding signs and handing out leaflets on the sidewalk in front of the court, where protests are legal. A federal judge recently struck down the law that bars protests on court property, including the marble plaza. But the high court quickly promulgated a new regulation banning protests under a different federal statute.
Langley said the anti-death penalty group started its protest at 12:01 a.m. June 29 with demonstrators standing briefly in a circle on the plaza. Court police watched, but apparently chose not to regard the activity as an illegal protest. "We were surprised the police allowed us to stay there," Langley said.
Protesters are hoping to build on the momentum against the death penalty in many states, said Langley. "We've had six states in six years abolish the death penalty," he said. "If we can get to a tipping point, we are hoping the court will rule that it is unusual. We know it is cruel, but it has to be unusual."
Photograph by Diego Radzinschi