“The Richmond Wrap-Up event cosponsored by VADP Saturday March 22nd in Vienna was a great success!”

By John McDiarmid, Executive Director of Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty

The major sponsor of the event was Social Action Linking Together (SALT), and John Horejsi of SALT presided. Other cosponsors besides VADP were VA Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE) and VA Coalition of Latino Organizations (VACOLAO).

The effective, concise keynote address was by Professor Richard Rubinstein of George Mason. He spoke on poverty, inequality and "precarity" (people living near the poverty line), and the threat they pose to Virginia.

Three state senators and six delegates turned out to speak and answer questions: Senators Dick Saslaw, Janet Howell, and Barbara Favola, and Delegates Kenneth Plum, Mark Keam, David Bulova, Patrick Hope, Marcus Simon, and Alfonso Lopez.

The whole audience present was perhaps 100 people. Members of VADP-NOVA in attendance were Paul Blackburn, Dan Burke, George Deyman, John McDiarmid, Patti O’Neill, Betty and Herb Puscheck, Ann Rudd, Dianne Snyder, and Terri Steinberg, along with our state executive director Steve Northup, our Amnesty ally Andrea Hall, and our VA CURE ally Carla Peterson.

The legislators' remarks and the Q&A ranged over a wide variety of topics the General Assembly dealt with this year. (News flash:

Senators Howell and Saslaw emphasized that the Senate will not "blink" in the confrontation with House Republicans on Medicaid expansion.)

On our issue, John McDiarmid asked about the contrasting electric chair bills introduced this year, one to ban use of the chair, the other to mandate it if lethal injection drugs become unavailable. Delegate Ken Plum, a member of the VADP Advisory Board, responded; he suggested that the combination of increased opposition to the chair and decreasing availability of the drugs may provide an opening for us.

Later, since there had been so much discussion of the state budget, Terri Steinberg rose and pointed out the millions of dollars the state is spending in its dogged effort to re-prosecute her son Justin Wolfe; if we're concerned about the budget, here's money that could be better spent. Terri's testimony had its usual powerful impact.   

A highly successful and energizing event. Clearly, collaborations like this are a direction we should go in: our message reached not only the legislators, but the other social justice activists present, who probably oppose the death penalty but also probably don't think about it often--it's good to remind them and tell them about our efforts.

Thanks: to John Horejsi for inviting us to cosponsor, and for doing a great job organizing the event;