Activists Arrested at U.S. Supreme Court
Calling for an End to the Death Penalty
12 Will Face Trial June 28th


Tuesday, June 27 from 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm - Teach-in and Vigil for Death Penalty Abolition. Join legal experts, activists and faith leaders in Washington, DC to support efforts to end the death penalty. This 1 hour program will provide both a legal overview of the death penalty and a theological grounding for abolishing it. Please join us for the Facebook Livestream which will be hosted at the Sojourners' Facebook page.

Download the toolkit and discussion guide HERE.

Wednesday, June 28 at 9:00 am - Death Penalty on Trial - come to DC Superior Court to support the 12 abolitionist defendants who were arrested in a January protest action in DC. Location: 500 Indiana Avenue NW (Judiciary Square). Sit in the courtroom for an hour, two hours or as long as you can be there. Court closes at 5 pm, and the trial may carry over into June 29th. We beleive the trial will be in Judge Robert Salerno's court, which may be courtroom 210. You can inquire on site with court officers.

And join us for more events June 28 to July 3 in Washington, DC for the annual Starvin' for Justice: Fast and Vigil to Abolish the Death Penalty. Full schedule is here.

Read on for the report from the action....and check out our media hits on Slate and Sojourners!


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Forty years after the first execution of Gary Gilmore under contemporary laws, 18 anti-death penalty activists were arrested at the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday. The group unfurled a 30-foot-long banner that read “STOP EXECUTIONS!” on the steps of the Court. On the sidewalk, a crowd of over 80 supporters observed the action, carrying 40 posters (1 for each year) with the names of the other 1442 men and women executed since 1977. They also carried roses in two colors, a reminder that they are remembering both families of the murdered and families of the executed as they stand together saying, as one banner did, “We Remember the Victims, But Not With More Killing.”

The group included several murder victim family members, a death row exoneree, family members of the incarcerated, pastors and religious leaders, and national leaders in the death penalty abolition movement. It was the largest act of civil disobedience against the death penalty in modern history.

All 18 activists were held overnight in jail, and released by 6:00 pm the following day after more than 30 hours in police custody. 12 of those arrested will be going to trial in Washington, DC on June 28, 2017.

One of the participants who was arrested was Randy Gardner, whose brother, like Gilmore, was executed in Utah by firing squad.

"My Brother Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed in 2010 by the same state and by the same method as Gilmore," Gardner stated. "I believed then, and I still believe now, that the death penalty is morally wrong. I never condoned what my brother did, but when the state executes someone, they create yet another family that is damaged and grieving. We don’t have to kill to be safe from dangerous criminals and hold them accountable. It is time to abolish the death penalty."

Shane Claiborne, influential Christian author and activist, speaking of the significance of religious leaders, said this: “When we try to kill those who kill, we mirror, and legitimize, the cycle of violence. We can deal with violent crime without resorting to the violence we want to rid the world of. As faith leaders and clergy, we stand together, with families of the murdered and families of the executed, and say NO to all killing. Violence is the disease, not the cure.”

Scott Langley, a death penalty abolition organizer from New York, said “The national tide has turned against the death penalty with more and more states, counties, and juries refusing to continue this barbaric practice. We acted today to call on this Court to recognize that standards of decency and human rights have evolved to the point that this has to end now.”

Those arrested were Peter Armstrong (Washington, DC), Leroy Barber (Portland, OR), Abraham J. Bonowitz (Columbus, OH), SueZann Bosler (Miami, FL), Shawn Casselberry (Chicago, IL), Shane Claiborne (Philadelphia, PA), John Dear (Santa Fe, NM), Randy Gardner (Taylorsville, UT), Lisa Sharon Harper (Washington, DC), Derrick Jamison (Cincinnati, OH), Art Laffin (Washington, DC), Scott Langley (Ghent, NY), Michael McBride (Oakland, CA), Tom Muther (Topeka, KS), Doug Pagitt (Minneapolis, MN), Jack Payden-Travers (Lynchburg, VA), Sam R. Sheppard (Oakland, CA), and Kelton Tupper (Cheverly, MD).

Background: Forty years ago, on January 17, 1977, the State of Utah shot to death Gary Gilmore, who "volunteered" to be killed in revenge for his murder of Ben Bushnell and Max Jenson. This state-assisted suicide was the first execution under the Supreme Court’s upholding of the death penalty in 1976. Since then, there have been 1442 more executions, with another scheduled on January 18 in Virginia. Nearly 3,000 prisoners are currently on death rows in 31 states.

The protest is organized by the Abolitionist Action Committee (AAC), an ad-hoc group of individuals committed to highly visible and effective public education for alternatives to the death penalty through nonviolent direct action. The AAC also organizes a four day fast and vigil on the Supreme Court sidewalk every June 29 through July 2, and all are invited to participate.

Organizations endorsing/supporting this action include: Abolitionist Action Committee, Campaign for Nonviolence, Catholic Mobilizing Network, Center for Action and Contemplation, Consistent Life Network, Death Penalty Action, Embrey Human Rights Program, Evangelicals for Social Action, Faith in Public Life, Journey of Hope… From Violence to Healing, National Council of Churches, OPEN, People of Faith Against the Death Penalty, PICO Network LIVE FREE Campaign, RAW Tools, Red Letter Christians, Repairers of the Breach, Sojourners, We Stand With Love, and Witness to Innocence

DONATE to support the action and those arrested. Funds needed for transportation, housing, court costs, etc. Pledge $40, $400 or whatever you can afford at secure donations website.


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