I participated in my first execution vigil on July 13, 1998 at San Quentin Prison, where more than 300 people came out to protest the execution of Tommy Thompson.
I felt compelled to attend out of a belief that violence is no answer to violence. I attended not knowing what to expect or how I would feel, and I left convinced that everyone should attend these vigils to experience exactly what actions are taken in the interests of the “state.”
Attendance grew throughout the night. Mike Farrell of “M*A*S*H” fame made the point that the U.S. should follow the lead of the majority of countries in the world and recognize that executions only promote vengeance, not justice. Perhaps the most moving speaker of the night was Tommy Thompson’s niece. She was able to humanize Mr. Thompson and bring home the notion that family members suffer on both sides of the fence.
According to news accounts, the “state of California” executed Tommy Thompson. Politicians, such as Attorney General Dan Lundgren, have convinced themselves that by attending executions they will appear “tough on crime.” We have to let the world know that there are also citizens who oppose the murder of prisoners.
This execution can be a lightning rod for action and raising awareness. The case was woefully underreported in the press prior to the execution. The easiest action is making others aware of the increasing number of executions occurring throughout the country.
After attending the vigil, I was convinced that Tommy Thompson’s execution was not in vain. I left encouraged that as long as people confront the reality of executions in this country, they will be repulsed by them.