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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

06-06 South Bend Tribune

The Journey of hope march heads toward the

Rally Unites Opposition to the Death Penalty

Michigan City – Clear skies soared Saturday over 75 people outside the Indiana State Prison who see the death penalty as a shameful cloud in American life.
If their message was simple – don’t kill in our names – their backgrounds were not. Many are relatives of murder victims who despite their pain, have decided they cannot support additional killing in the name of justice.
“Abolition, yes, yes, death penalty, no” they chanted as they marched through town to a field by the prison that houses nearly all of Indiana’s death row population of 56 people.
Along the way, they encountered the curious, the callous and even the cruel.
“Kill ‘em all,” one man shouted while leaning his full length through the window of a passing car.
The rally was the first wave of a 17-day event throughout Indiana called the Journey of Hope. Organized by a group called Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation, participants hope to raise awareness and change minds about capital punishment.
Local events will be held in South Bend on Tuesday, and in Elkhart and Goshen on Wednesday. The Journey of Hope will end with a June 19 rally in Indianapolis.
Among Saturday’s crowd were about a dozen people whose relatives have died through violence. Each person’s story differed, yet each came Saturday because of personal convictions against capital punishment.
“There’s no sense for me to want to have anyone killed, to see someone else go through the pain that I did.” said Mike Lawson, of Indianapolis, whose brother was shot to death by a man now serving a sentence for manslaughter.
Yet other views were expressed also. Eight relatives of an Indiana murder victim stood apart from the larger crowd, displaying their own signs and convictions. Some in each group exchanged harsh words with each other, but most appeared to grant each other the right to their beliefs.
Still, each group’s views could not sit easily with the other side.
As shouts of support could be heard from the prison, a priest who has been involved for years in prison ministry sent them back a message. “We love you, we care about you, be strong,” Rev. Charles Doyle said.
In counterpoint, a woman who supports the death penalty clapped as the national chairman of Amnesty International cited the 203 Americans killed by execution since 1977.
Despite such controversy, the rally’s organizers were pleased with the turnout and the opportunity to express so publicly a view that is often shouted down.
It’s an issue where education makes a difference, a huge difference,” said Maureen Kelly, of the Chicago office of Amnesty International.