Council Members Urge Calm Over 'Tookie' Williams Decisions
POSTED: 2:13 pm PST December 9, 2005
LOS ANGELES -- Four Los Angeles City Council members called for calm Friday as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger considers whether to grant clemency to Crips co-founder and death row inmate Stanley "Tookie" Williams.
With less than four days to go before Williams' scheduled Tuesday execution, sporadic-yet-credible threats of civil unrest have prompted the council members and representatives from the city and county human relations commissions to ask religious leaders to emphasize a message of peace during weekend services.
"We picked up information that led us to believe that there were some planned and intentioned acts of violence that could occur in the wake of the decision or the execution planned for Stan "Tookie" Williams," Robin Toma, executive director of the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission, said during a news conference at City Hall.
Toma declined to list the affected communities or elaborate on the threats.
Councilman Bernard Parks said he spoke earlier today about potential civil unrest with Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Earl Paysinger of the South Bureau.
Parks said Paysinger assured him the LAPD would remain "vigilant" this weekend, but there was no immediate need to put the city on tactical alert.
"All you need is a few to disrupt the entire city," Parks said, referring to the events that led to the 1992 riots. "You don't need large numbers of people to start a problem."
Parks, along with council members Jan Perry, Herb Wesson and Bill Rosendahl, said they are asking religious leaders to deliver a message of peace in the days leading up to Williams' scheduled lethal injection execution at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday at San Quentin Prison.
"Regardless of your personal views on Mr. Williams' situation, I believe we all share a desire to ensure that people find outlets in which they can respectfully and positively voice their opinions," Perry said. "I believe that our religious institutions provide guidance and leadership to thousands in our community, and it is times like these that we must turn to each other for support."
Williams, now 51, was sentenced to death in 1981 after he was found guilty of murdering four people during two separate robberies two years earlier.
Williams has maintained his innocence.
Attorneys for Williams and the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office each delivered 30 minutes of arguments to the governor yesterday, with prosecutors insisting that Williams deserved to die for the slayings and defense lawyers arguing that he has renounced gang violence.
The governor could issue a decision at any time.
If granted clemency, Williams would serve life in prison without parole.
In California, only the governor has the authority to commute a death sentence to life in prison. Ronald Reagan was the last California governor to grant clemency in 1967.
If clemency is denied, Parks said he will ask religious leaders to open their churches and synagogues for community discussions.
Rosendahl added: "I'm standing here as a white guy that represents the 11th District who realizes it impacts all of us, we're all in this dialogue together. In my district, black and white and brown and Asian together are mixing and discussing this issue. It's of great concern to all of us."
The Crips street gang, founded in 1971 in South Central Los Angeles, went on to become one of the most violent and widespread in the United States.
Family members of Williams' victims say he should be put to death for his actions.
But Williams's supporters say he has reformed because he spent much of the past 24 years writing children's books and teaching at-risk youth about the dangers of gangs. Supporters also have nominated him for Nobel prizes, for peace and in literature.
"For those who believe in redemption, they should remember that for the past 13 years, Mr. Williams has been talking about peace, not violence," Councilman Herb Wesson said. "I think the biggest tribute they could pay to him is to ensure that whatever happens ... they should be respectful to how he lived his life for the last 13 years."
Since being condemned to death, Williams has renounced his gang past, been the subject of a cable TV movie called "Redemption" starring Jamie Foxx. He was nominated in 2000 for a Nobel Peace Prize by Swiss Parliament member Mario Fehr for the anti-gang work he has done from his 9-by-4-foot cell.
Calls for clemency have been mounting from religious and community leaders and celebrities such as Foxx, the rapper Snoop Dogg, actor Mike Farrell and activist Bianca Jagger.
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People President Bruce Gordon also supports clemency, calling Williams "our secret weapon to help young African-Americans avoid gangs."