Hours before Troy Davis was controversially executed by the state of Georgia for allegedly murdering a police officer in the 1980s, members of the Stony Brook University chapter of the NAACP and Blackworld newspaper held a silent march on the academic mall in protest of the execution.
Over 40 students dressed entirely in black gathered outside the Student Activities Center and proceeded quietly towards the Administration building, many clutching flyers with Davis’ face on them.
Melissa Mayard, an executive board member of the campus chapter of the NAACP, helped organize Wednesday’s event.
“[The executive board members] were talking about it and how devastating this trial has been and we said we’ve got to do something, we can’t just sit on this campus and not do anything,” she said.
Davis was convicted of the 1989 killing of police officer Mark MacPhail, based largely on the testimony of eyewitnesses and circumstantial evidence. In the subsequent years, seven witnesses retracted their testimony, and several public figures, including former President Jimmy Carter and Al Sharpton, have called on the courts to grant clemency. The execution was previously scheduled three times in 2008, with each date stayed by federal court.
Last-minute attempts by civil rights groups, the national NAACP and other sympathetic organizations to get the Supreme Court to stay Davis’ execution for a fourth time were unsuccessful, and Davis was pronounced dead just after 11:00 pm.
The students who marched on Wednesday afternoon gathered by the fountain and shared a song and an impassioned speech from Mayard.
“You have Casey Anthony, where [the jury] said she got off because there was too much doubt. Now you have Troy Davis and there’s too much doubt. It just tells you this justice system works for whoever it wants to work for,” she said.
“I’ve known about this case for a while,” said Olusola Yussuf, the executive editor at Blackworld. “From the moment that I heard about it, it’s been this overwhelming feeling of helplessness above all else. Yes there’s some sadness and anger, but the overwhelming feeling is helplessness.”