Going forward after the gruesome execution of Troy Davis

Going forward after the gruesome execution of Troy Davis

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The state of Georgia murdered Troy Davis last night. People all over the country and the world mobilized to stop this legal lynching. There was no doubt that Troy Davis’ execution was the result of racist police forces coercing and intimidating witnesses. Police and prosecutorial abuse was widespread and recognized everywhere.

Save Troy Davis rally at White House, 09-21-2011Save Troy Davis rally at White House, 09-21-2011
Demonstrators gather outside the White House at a rally to save Troy Davis' life just hours before his scheduled execution. Similar actions took place across the country and around the world.

Based on an urgent appeal issued by the ANSWER Coalition at 11am Eastern Time yesterday, people sent more than 13,000 letters in the first seven hours to the Obama administration demanding that it initiate a federal civil rights investigation into the Troy Davis case and seek a stay of his execution.

That was a straight forward and simple method for the president to intervene and prevent a gruesome and irreversible miscarriage of justice. He had the power to do it.

Obama refuses to act

At 6:30pm last night, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney released a statement to the media announcing that President Obama would not intervene. And why not? Carney explained that “it would not be appropriate for the president of the United States to weigh in on specific cases like this one, which is a state prosecution,” according to the Boston Globe.

The president does not feel constrained from speaking out about executions in Iran and other sovereign countries. In fact, the White House regularly poses as the “human rights” champion of “specific cases” in other countries. Why must the White House remain mute when it comes to an obvious Jim Crow-type miscarriage of justice within the boundaries of the United States?

The New York Times lead editorial yesterday was entitled “A Grievous Wrong" and called the planned execution of Troy Davis “a tragic miscarriage of justice.” The Pope, Bishop Desmond Tutu and even former FBI Director William Sessions were among the 1 million people who demanded that the execution not go forward.

But President Obama and the Holder Justice Department turned their backs and consciously let Mr. Davis be murdered.

President Obama's political strategy as he heads into the next election cycle is to endlessly placate rather than confront the political base of the Republican Party. He knows Troy Davis' execution was a racist murder. But he and his advisors didn't want to spend one penny of political capital. In essence, his strategy from the day he took office has been to embrace the institutions, programs and policies that had been previously identified with the hated Bush administration.

Moving steadily to the right

During the budget deficit debate in July, President Obama surprised even the Republicans by going beyond their anti-people proposals and calling for deep cuts in Social Security and Medicare.

When he finally came to a closed-room budget deal with Republican House leader John Boehner in March, he privately gave the Tea Party an extra bonus by depriving low-income women in Washington, D.C., of the full range of health care services.

“'John, I'll give you D.C. abortion', Obama reportedly told House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) before reaching a deal, effectively trading away the city’s right to fund abortions for low­-income women,” the Washington Post reported on April 16.

As we head into the next election cycle, many in the progressive movement and in the unions are starting to fuel up the efforts to re-elect the Democrats so “we won’t face a right-wing Republican government.” They will continue to let the White House off the hook. Numerous liberal organizations played a central role in bringing the case of Troy Davis to national and international attention. Those efforts should be saluted. It is important to note, however, that only a few groups, with ANSWER among them, demanded that the White House take action to prevent the execution.

This political syndrome needs to end. Civil rights, union rights, women’s rights are being crushed by an assault from the capitalist political system.

These rights were not a gift from Democratic politicians. They were the result of fierce, militant struggles. The leaders of those movements were self-sacrificing and determined. They didn't function as an appendage to the Republican or Democratic Party leaderships.

Troy Davis and the tradition of struggle

Whining and hand wringing about the awful Tea Party and the refusal of the Democrats to stand up to them is just a big dead end. What is needed is a new, powerful grassroots movement for justice.

Troy Davis was not only a victim; he was a leader. He demonstrated courage in the face of his executioners. His spirit will be formative in the creation of a new people's movement that is coming into existence. In fact, millions of people took action together in a massive but unsuccessful effort to prevent his legal lynching. This is the important legacy that Troy Davis has given us. The movement to save Troy Davis needs to grow in support of all those who are the victims of racism and injustice.

A new generation of leaders will take the helm. Rather than function as a tail to the Democratic Party, they will be guided by the famous words of Frederick Douglass:

If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.

This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.

We have volunteer meetings around the country. If you have been part of this struggle, please join us in working to fight racist injustice. Call any of the ANSWER Coalition offices listed below. 

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