27 years ago three activists gathered outside the Supreme Court for four days and three nights, Starvin’ 4 Justice.
48 years ago, on June 29, 1972 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Furman v. Georgia that the death penalty was unconstitutional in application, being “arbitrary and capricious.” However, the Court did not rule that the death penalty was “cruel and unusual,” so states were free to write new death penalty laws, and many states did so as quickly as possible. By 1976, those new laws were being tested in the U.S. Supreme Court. That July 2, four years and three days later, the Court upheld the new death penalty laws in Gregg v. Georgia. The death penalty was once again constitutional. The Fast & Vigil, entitled Starvin’ 4 Justice, takes place in front of the U.S. Supreme Court every year. The four days between these two historic anniversaries provide “a natural opportunity for a demonstration of conscience on the issue of judicially-sanctioned state-sponsored killing.”
In an interview with Starvin’ 4 Justice co-founder and renowned human rights activist, Rick Halperin, he delivered to us a powerful reminder: “this is not just a struggle to end the death penalty, this is a struggle for the heart and soul of you, your loved ones, your community, your states, your nation. This is a struggle for the fundamental values of this nation.”
Rick has been an anti-death penalty activist for the greater part of his life, comitted to expanding and guaranteeing human rights to all. In discussing the breadth of human rights agendas, he claims “the death penalty is not an issue, it is the issue. If human rights was a solar system, the death penalty would be the sun.” Over 70% of countries have already abolished the death penalty. The United States is one of a handful of high resource nations with the death penalty intact, at odds with all its allies and other democracies. Unsurprisingly, Starvin’ 4 Justice has received overwhelming support from around the globe, mounting banners sent to them from countless countries in countless languages. Most succinctly, Rick asserts, “you can put a flag around [the death penalty], an american flag or any other flag, but it doesn’t make it right it. It makes it what it is– immoral.”
While Starvin’ 4 Justice continues for its 27th year in 2020, we are called to action by its co-founder, Rick Halperin. “The only failure when it comes to the death penalty, is the failure to do nothing.”