The death of Troy Davis at the hands of the criminal justice system in Georgia, USA (as allowed by the US Supreme Court) was a watershed moment, the beginning of the death of capital punishment worldwide.
I watched Democracy Now’s stunning on-scene coverage of the vigil for Troy being held outside of his prison. It’s hard to put into words what this experience was like, but I’ll try my best …
The moment of 7 pm when he was to be killed, came and went with cheers going up from the crowd. At 6:59 I felt a heaviness in my chest, a pressure making it hard for me to breathe, like something was pressing on me … this was gone at 7:01 when Troy was still with us.
Then came the hideous, grotesque, surreal waiting… watching Larry Cox of Amnesty International openly weeping, sobbing at the inhumanity of it all … comforted by Ben Jealous. You could tell that Ben Jealous and Kathryn Hamoudah have been through executions before. They provided a steady rock of comfort for the family & friends gathered to be as close to Troy as they could, in his final moments of life.
Troy`s sister Martina was an astonishing pillar of strength and eloquence. Her son, Troy`s nephew, seems a remarkable young man. Troy`s other sister Kim Davis did not wish to say much in front of the camera but her faith was certainly evident. My admiration for this family knows no bounds.
I can’t remember exactly when it was, during the 4 hours it took SCOTUS to refuse saving Troy’s life, that the sirens started. It was maybe an hour or so before Troy died, maybe more. I don’t know when it happened exactly but as I heard the terrible sound of many police cars screaming over to the prison grounds, I knew that the news was going to be bad.
Would they send in the riot squad if they were going to save Troy? Obviously not. So the outcome was obvious at that point, but still the family were not told anything and made to wait longer. This was starting to resemble deliberate mental and emotional torture by this point.
I knew that those sirens, those helicopters, meant that Troy would soon die. I saw Ben Jealous quickly gather up the 150-or-so people behind the rope … they left the cameras and stood around Ben, while he spoke softly to them.
Because having assisted at these tragedies before, Ben knew and so did Kathryn – those sirens, those helicopters overhead with their searchlights, the ultimate form of disrespect and callous disregard for those good people, were signalling that the prison would go ahead with Troy’s killing.
Ben Jealous no doubt took the opportunity to make sure that people would stay calm after the inevitable announcement that would shortly come. Kathryn Hamoudah’s face seemed to have a veil come over it, her demeanour changed slightly … she had the firm resolve of somebody who knew that she was about to bear witness to a planned murder, and who was steeling her strength for it.
The Democracy Now team did not seem to realize what those sirens meant, calmly continuing on with their broadcast as best they could.
Then came the announcement, read on the air by DN’s remarkably poised, eloquent producer (whose name I am very sorry to say I did not catch yet), that Troy’s killing would shortly go ahead.
A low moan escaped a woman in yellow who was standing nearby … followed by complete, utter silence. Not one person spoke, except for Amy Goodman of DN who continued to comment on the scene in her typical determined way, never forgetting that she was a broadcaster first. Amy is obviously the consummate professional and my admiration for her personally is now at staggering proportions.
Nobody else spoke or moved. The complete silence was punctuated by the helicopters with their searchlights, playing over the still, quiet crowd. Their dignity soared above those helicopters which seemed crass, ridiculous, mundane, insulting.
At 11 pm (EST) I felt, in my imagination, that I was right there with Troy in that chamber. I closed my eyes, and I imagined leaning over and kissing his forehead, whispering softly to him, “Peace, brother. Peace. People all over the world love you. Peace.“ At 11:04 I suddenly said to my son – “Troy has died.“ There had been no announcement yet, but I felt sure that something had changed. I knew beyond any doubt that Troy had left us for the beyond. And I felt strongly that he had gone in peace.
A few moments later it was confirmed to be true. Democracy Now`s producer, an obviously intelligent and motivated young woman with a good heart, read out the news that Troy had died. Her voice broke part way through and she lost her composure for the first time that evening. It was such a heartbreaking moment – and it still hurts.
Then we saw the people who had witnessed this killing speak. The reporter who spoke the most had a strange look in his eyes. He looked extremely upset. Somebody asked him why he`d been there and he responded, “Because they picked me, that`s why,“ with an exaggerated shrug. His eyebrows were raised and his eyes were enlarged, while he answered questions from the press. To me, it looked like his eyebrows were raised against crying – he was trying his best not to cry. I felt very sorry for him.
I have felt slightly disoriented since watching this scene for hours, like I`m only partly here. I have to keep giving my head a shake, to clear it (but that doesn`t work). I tried to help both myself and others by following my instincts and tweeting anything I felt might be helpful, putting it out there just in case (as I always do, just in case).
The complete head-to-toe exhaustion which must be felt by Amy Goodman, her producer and crew yesterday and today, is almost palpable because I felt a tiny bit of it myself and I was not even there.
This was a wrenching, shattering, terrible, horrible, violent event. The way that Georgia acted, sending in its troops in such a disrespectful, insulting way, bothering and disturbing these grieving people, was a complete travesty of any semblance of human decency. The way that they sent in those police cars, sirens screaming, a full half hour (at least) before telling the family what was going on, was also patronizing and more than likely unnecessary.
The way that they forbid family members in Georgia from attending a state killing, depriving the victim of the presence of his greatest supporters, is completely disgusting. The entire procedure is disgusting, and the doctors who preside over it are a shame to their profession. The physician who makes a good living providing over these executions is a monster in disguise.
All of these thoughts went through my head then, and are still going through my head. I can`t leave Troy Davis and his family in my heart, and so I won`t. I will continue to see this through, all the way. I will do whatever I can to help and promote the abolitionist movement in the US.
I do hope that Democracy Now broadcasts Troy`s funeral from Savannah, however I imagine that they will need to recover their strength and energy before thinking of tackling that. Congratulations to Amy Goodman for scooping the entire world and providing such a vivid window into this rapidly dying, atrocious, barbaric practice. Hopefully her good work will help see an end to this killing.