Two Activists Arrested at Troy Davis Sit-in at Governor’s Office

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(APN) ATLANTA — Two anti-death penalty activists, Rev. Marvin Morgan, First Congregational Church, and Steve Woodhall, were arrested today at the Governor’s Office, after refusing to leave the office until speaking with the governor about tomorrow’s impending execution of Troy Davis.

Woodhall has been fasting since Thursday for Davis, only drinking water, as part of a one-man vigil outside of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper offices downtown. Meanwhile, Rev. Morgan today issued a letter to the governor asking to let him take the place of Davis.

The events have been part of numerous grassroots actions which have occurred locally since the Board of Pardons and Paroles denied Davis clemency, and activists have been scrambling to come up with creative ways to respond.

The grassroots actions have contrasted with the numerous larger-scale events which until now have been organized centrally by Amnesty International and Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

None of the calls placed by Atlanta Progressive News to the Atlanta Police Department’s Public Affairs office were answered after hours.

Also at the Governor’s Office were Sister Pat Sullivan, a Dominican nun; activist Asha Leong, of Decatur; and a videographer, Melanie Mascioli. The three left before Morgan and Woodall were arrested.

“There was just a peaceful sitting all throughout the day,” Leong, 31, who was in and out throughout the day, told Atlanta Progressive News.

“I think it was a real, on all of our parts, a commitment to justice,” Sister Pat Sullivan, 68, told APN. “It was a matter of trying to a get a letter to the governor. It was Rev. Morgan who had actually written a letter that he’d be willing to offer himself to take the place of Troy Davis.”

Sullivan was there from around 10 in the morning until 5pm, when the office closed. She left at 5pm because she said she had not made preparations to be arrested.

“It was a way to draw the attention that there are many people out there who feel this way,” Sullivan said.

“Folks had asked for an audience with the governor to ask him to exert his considerable power, given that he appoints the Parole Board, to encourage them to give clemency to Troy Davis,” Leong said.

“They [the Governor’s staff] said the governor’s out of town. He [Rev. Morgan] said I’d be very happy to just to speak to him on the phone; I’d like for him to hear my voice. They sent someone up and said we’ll take the letter, and we had no idea whether it would be delivered or not,” Sullivan said.

“They said the governor is not going to be made available to you. He [Morgan] said there’s not much time. We have to talk to him now. Then they came back and said you know the governor cannot pardon, it’s not in his purview to pardon. You cannot do anything like this,” Sullivan said.

“They said you might want to go to the Board of Pardons and Parole. Both of those men [Morgan and Woodall] thought that would not be the best place to try to be heard because so many people have already tried to be heard by the Board,” Sullivan said.

“He [the Governor] does have the authority to do extraordinary things in extraordinary times… to call people together and pray himself,” Sullivan asked, noting “he prayed for rain.”

“He might go to his Parole Board and speak with them. Someone said he appointed three out of five of these. Certainly he knows them well and could go and confer with them. Just to say he has no influence whatsoever seems like a put off,” Sullivan said.

“They said you can stay there and pray. We sat in a section of the wide lobby,” Sullivan said.

“Things heated up once the office closed,” Leong said, adding that about 20 police officers came to the Governor’s Office. The officers were at first focused on getting the videographer to stop taping.

“At one point they threatened to arrest her,” Leong said.

“The secretaries approached us and said the office was closed. And then they got upset the videographer was filming and brought law enforcement in to remove the videographer. Then the official sit-in began, and Reverend Morgan and Steve Woodall sat down on the ground in front of the secretary’s desk and refused to move,” Leong said.

The two men were arrested after 6pm and escorted out of the building by Capitol police.

“I think the [Davis] case is completely shocking and appalling, there’s no physical evidence, 7 of 9 have recanted,” Leong said.

“This is especially significant since he still has a [US] Supreme Court appeal pending. So they’re literally going to kill him before he exhausted all his avenues for justice,” Leong said.

“It shakes my belief in the justice system, and my trust in our elected and appointed officials and law enforcement officers,” Leong said.

“There’s so many questions,” Sullivan said, based only on what she has read in the paper. “It’s about being innocent until proven guilty. The closer people are to this case, the more they believe he’s innocent.”

Woodhall, who has been fasting for Davis, “is planning to go back to his vigil when he is bonded out of jail,” Leong said.

It was not immediately clear what the two protesters were charged with, when they would be released, or the amount of their bond.

About the author:

Matthew Cardinale, News Editor, is reachable is matthew@atlantaprogressivenews.com

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