Today is a little known but important date in American history: on June 29, 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional in practice in the Furman v. Georgia decision. A number of states scrambled to rewrite their capital punishment statutes and, four years later on July 2, 1976, the Court effectively reversed itself in the Gregg v. Georgia decision.
For the past 19 years, a dedicated group of death penalty opponents have gathered at the Supreme Court on this anniversary, holding a four day vigil — from June 29th until July 2nd — during which time they abstain from eating any food. Over the course of the four days, they discuss and provide information about the death penalty to passersby; they are led by murder victims’ family members who oppose executions and are joined by activists, organizers, musicians, actors, and people of faith and conscience.
I have the privilege to know and work with many of these fine people, and I count myself extremely fortunate to have been able to join them in this Fast & Vigil on several occasions, back when I lived in North Carolina and Virginia. I wish I was there with them today, listening to my stomach beginning to growl while talking to passersby and feeling very energized at the start of that long, hot, first day on the DC sidewalk.
More info on the Fast & Vigil here.