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McVeigh Protesters Gather at Prison

June 11, 2001

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TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) _ Death penalty supporters gathered for Timothy McVeigh’s execution huddled quietly on bleachers outside the federal prison early Monday, holding homemade signs in the glare from television spotlights.

Their signs said ``Remember the Victims,″ ``Thou shalt not kill and live,″ some with the simple footnote, ``168.″

Only about 20 death penalty supporters took the early buses from a city park to the makeshift protest grounds, where the prison had set up a tent, bleachers and straw bales for additional seating.

Opponents of the death penalty, bused in from another city park, had similar accommodations more than a hundred yards away. The two groups are separated by orange snow fencing.

Prison officials had prepared for thousands of demonstrators to show up. But they numbered fewer than 100 in the early morning hours Monday.

Ajamu Baraka of Amnesty International attributed the small turnout to the fact that McVeigh’s execution was being carried out by the federal government _ and that death penalty opponents were urged to demonstrate in their own hometowns.

Russell Braun, 21, of Terre Haute, holding a sign reading ``Bye Bye Baby Killer,″ was among those demonstrating in support of the execution.

``I’m here to make sure the survivors are remembered. It has nothing to do with McVeigh,″ Braun said. ``The kids could have grown up and made a difference in this world and they weren’t even given a chance.″

A couple from Oklahoma City, Jon Prough, 29, and his wife, Carrie Prough, 26, drove 10 hours to be in Terre Haute for the execution of the man who blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing 168 people.

``We can give 10 hours of our lives to show people support and believe in them,″ John Prough said.

About 75 death penalty opponents marched to the prison Sunday. During their three-mile march, the demonstrators carried 14-foot-high puppets of Uncle Sam and Jesus and banners that read ``Stop the Killing.″ When they reached the prison, they sang ``We Shall Overcome.″

Later Sunday, about 50 abolitionists laid out signs on the lawn of St. Mary Margaret Church, tucked in a normally quiet residential neighborhood.

Unitarian minister Bill Breeden, sporting a red T-shirt with white lettering reading ``Stop Executions Now,″ said he believes the government is wrong to kill McVeigh.

``He’s not afraid of death, he’s afraid of insignificance. And here we are, giving him tremendous significance _ the first federal execution since 1963,″ said Breeden, a member of the Bloomington Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, based in Bloomington, Ind.

Abe Bonowitz of Tequesta, Fla., director of Citizens United for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, brought a busload of people from Boston.

``We’re here because our country is killing in our name, and we think it’s wrong,″ Bonowitz said.

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