Stop the Execution of Stanley “Tookie” Williams

As we go to press, the life of Stanley “Tookie” Williams hangs by a thread. Williams is scheduled to be executed in California on December 13, and California Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger has announced he will rule on a clemency petition after meeting with Williams' lawyers, prosecutors, and others on December 8.

Last year, Schwartzenegger refused to grant clemency to California death row inmate Kevin Cooper. On the eve of his scheduled execution, Cooper wrote:

“While I am an innocent man about to be murdered by this state, I realize that innocence makes no difference to the people who control the criminal justice system, including this prison. This is the same system that has historically and systematically executed men, women, and children who look just like me, if only because they can.”

The U.S. just executed the 1,000th person since the Supreme Court re-legalized the death penalty in 1976. A majority of people on Death Row are people of color--including 77% of all federal death row prisoners. The death penalty in this society is a ruthless enforcement of oppression. The fight to save Stanley Williams is a critical flashpoint in the battle against this. The execution of Stanley “Tookie” Wiliams must be stopped!


By his own account, Williams co-founded the Crips street gang in Los Angeles. He was convicted of four murders and sentenced to death in 1981. Whatever Williams may or may not have done in the gang life, he has maintained his innocence in the case that sent him to Death Row--a case based on circumstantial evidence and testimony by witnesses who were facing felony charges including fraud, rape, murder, and mutilation. Even the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals admitted in a September 10, 2002 ruling that the witnesses in Williams' case had incentives to lie in order to obtain leniency from the state in either charging or sentencing.

There is an cruel, sick irony in the fact that Stanley Williams is facing execution. By the system's own standards he has been a model prisoner. He has spoken out against gang violence, and written Tookie Speaks Out Against Gang Violence--a series of eight books that are in schools, libraries, and juvenile correctional facilities throughout the nation and around the world. The television movie starring Jamie Foxx, Redemption, was based on his life. Williams has received numerous awards including five nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Williams played an important role in promoting the gang truce movement, which emerged especially out of the fires of the L.A. rebellion in 1992. When other gang leaders in Watts asked him to voice his support for the gang Peace Treaty in 1993, Williams sent a videotaped message upholding the treaty to a gang summit.

Protest... and Execution Frenzy

Bianca Jagger, Snoop Dogg, Jamie Foxx, Jesse Jackson, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the President of the NAACP, Black politicians and other death penalty foes have all spoken out against executing Stanley Williams. Jamie Foxx and Snoop Dogg helped organize a four-city tour in California where they read from Williams’ memoir, Blue Rage, Black Redemption. Tens of thousands have signed petitions demanding that Governor Schwarzenegger stop the execution. Gang members have spoken out in defense of Williams; one leader of the Bloods (another major gang in L.A. and the “sworn enemy” of the Crips) announced that the Bloods would set aside their battles with the Crips in order to fight for Williams’ life.

Nevertheless, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his final appeal. Two weeks later a Los Angeles Superior Court rushed to set Williams' execution date at one minute past midnight on December 13, pushing Williams’ case ahead of other cases that had final appeals rejected before him. An L.A. judge even refused to delay the murder by a week so Williams’ attorneys would have more time to prepare their clemency brief.

And a fascist frenzy is being whipped up demanding Williams' execution. In Southern California, reactionary AM radio talk show hosts “Ken and John” have turned the drive-time hour of their daily KFI broadcast into the “Stan Must Die/Kill Tookie Hour.” Just about every police organization in California has demanded he be killed. L.A. police chief William Bratton, Sheriff Lee Baca, and District Attorney Steve Cooley wrote a public letter to Schwarzenegger demanding that he uphold Williams’ execution because he hasn’t taken responsibility for his crimes. This from the head of a police department with a history of murder, drug dealing, frame-ups, and corruption.

The Revolutionary Way Out

It is very important that people have stepped out to fight the execution of Stanley Williams. At the same time, this battle raises bigger questions. The government and the talk-show lynch mob are demanding the death of this Black man at a time when a strong stench of genocide is in the air (see "The Logic of the Logic... On Christian Fascist leader Pat Robertson's Demand that Society Impose the Death Penalty in the Way Prescribed in the Bible," by Bob Avakian, on this page).

For those who refuse to live and die on their knees, there is a way out of this madness. Bob Avakian is a revolutionary leader who sees in those who this system has criminalized, vilified, locked up--and who the system is out to kill--the potential to be emancipators of all humanity. And he sees this even when they have been dragged down by the system into things that are not good. He sees that people can transform themselves as they transform the world. Building on the great revolutions of the past, Bob Avakian has a vision and plan for the basic people to be the core of a revolution, and a new revolutionary society that everyone would want to live in.

And Bob Avakian says that “Those who are most in the position of having nothing to lose--but their chains--are in the position to exert the most profound impact on society. This is not only a general law of history, it is a lesson that has been written in fire in recent times in the U.S. as well as throughout the world.” (from Bullets, From the Writings, Speeches and Interviews of Bob Avakian).

Right now, for the people with nothing to lose, do or die has to mean something real. Something revolutionary. And that means getting with Bob Avakian and the Revolutionary Communist Party.

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