Published: Monday, January 15, 2007
Death penalty opponents protest at state prison
Protesters promoted the cause of prisoners charged in the Lucasville riot.
By DON SHILLING
YOUNGSTOWN — About 50 opponents of the death penalty gathered outside the Ohio State Penitentiary to send a message.
"We have a new governor," said Susan Schnur, 49, of Cleveland. "We're hoping this is a starting point. We want Governor Strickland to see us."
The protest Sunday was organized by activists in Cleveland but also included Youngstown-area residents. The protesters were allowed to gather, chant and display signs on the side of a driveway leading into the Coitsville-Hubbard Road prison, which is home to Ohio's death row inmates.
They staged the protest on the Martin Luther King Day weekend because of King's involvement in social justice.
Besides their general opposition to the death penalty, the protesters also were trying to raise public attention of "the Lucasville five."
The five men were found guilty of additional charges after the 1993 riot at a state prison in Lucasville. Atty. Staughton Lynd of Niles recently wrote the book "Lucasville — The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising" that claims the men were unfairly charged and had nothing to do with the death of prison guards.
Sharon Danann, 56, of Cleveland received a call from one of those Lucasville prisoners a few months ago and gathered her activist friends to form the Lucasville Five Defense Committee. They are pushing for pardons for all men charged in the riot because they say the investigation was not handled properly.
Danann and others are part of groups in Cleveland that fight for social causes.
Danann said the turnout for the protest exceeded her expectations.
Reasons for opposition
Carl Miller, 19, of Berea said he joined because he thinks capital punishment is a "tool of the rich."
A common theme among the protesters was "You never see a rich man executed."
Olivia Flak, 34, of Youngstown said she is against the death penalty because society isn't working hard enough to help people escape poverty.
"Someone may commit a crime, but they don't know any other way of life. That's why I'm against capital punishment," she said.
Rain pelted the protesters, who started in a parking lot of a church adjacent to the prison but then moved to the waterlogged grass that ran along the prison driveway. Their spirits were high, however.
Olivia Flak's mother, Chris Flak, 52, of Youngstown huddled under an umbrella and summed it up for everyone who came out.
"On a rainy day like this you have to have it in your heart," she said.