On Dec. 13, the State of California murdered Stanley Tookie Williams. The execution came despite a mass campaign to save Williams’ life.
Williams was sentenced to death for four murders he supposedly committed while involved with the street gang he founded, the Crips. To the end, he maintained his innocence of the crimes.
Williams had used his time in prison to write children’s books discouraging gang violence. In recognition of his outspoken advocacy, he was nominated repeatedly for the Nobel Peace Prize and the Nobel Prize in Literature from 2001 to 2005.
But the execution had nothing to do with guilt or innocence. It was a contemptible act of political opportunism and racism by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger who is trying to bolster his support from right-wing conservatives before the next election. Schwarzenegger also revealed that Tookie Williams was executed for his political beliefs.
Turning down Williams’ plea for clemency, Schwarzenegger cited the dedication of one of his books to “Nelson Mandela, Angela Davis, Malcolm X, Assata Shakur, Geronimo Ji Jaga Pratt, Ramona Africa, John Africa, Leonard Peltier, Dhoruba Al-Mujahid, George Jackson, Mumia Abu-Jamal and the countless other men, women and youths who have to endure the hellish oppression of living behind bars.”
It is a list of people’s heroes and Black liberation leaders.
Schwarzenegger went on to claim that the names on the list—especially of prison activist, Black Panther and socialist George Jackson—were evidence that “Williams is not reformed and that he stills sees violence as a legitimate means to address societal problems.”
Like thousands before him, Stanley Tookie Williams became politicized in prison and sought to change the world from his prison cell. In the end, he was executed for his political activism and beliefs.
His life will be remembered in the unfinished struggle against racism, cop violence, the mass incarceration of Black youth and the death penalty.