2024 Voter Referendum on the Death Penalty in Oregon

2024 Voter Referendum on the Death Penalty in Oregon

September 10, 2022
Signatures: 299Next Goal: 500
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Why this petition matters

Started by Taylor Stewart

The Issue

This petition aims to show the Oregon legislature that there is broad-based support for bringing an initiative before voters in 2024 to end the death penalty in Oregon. Our coalition seeks to garner support to amend the Oregon Constitution to abolish the death penalty in the name of Alonzo Tucker for the purpose of reconciling the legacy of lynching in Oregon. Only Oregon voters have the power to ultimately end the death penalty in Oregon. Thus, it is on each of us who believe in the ideals of truth, justice, and reconciliation to make sure our voice is heard.

Alonzo Tucker

On September 18, 1902, an African American man named Alonzo Tucker was lynched in Coos Bay, OR. Alonzo Tucker was twenty-eight, married, and a boxer from California. He was lynched after being wrongfully accused of sexually assaulting a white woman. After being repeatedly shot, his dead body was hung from a light pole on the old Marshfield Bridge in front of a crowd of 300. Even children were a part of the lynch mob that left Alonzo Tucker's body hanging there for several hours. Despite this all occurring in broad daylight without a masked man in the crowd, no one was ever held accountable for this killing. Alonzo Tucker was just one of the thousands of African Americans who were lynched in this country.

Lynching to the Death Penalty

At the same time lynchings in the United States were going down, state-sanctioned executions were going up. Lynching simply moved indoors where all-white juries and expedited trials carried out the same verdict as the lynch mob. During the 1930's, two-thirds of all executions in the United States were of African Americans. Between 1910-1950, despite making up only 22% of the South's population, African Americans accounted for 75% of all of those who were executed in the region. Today, African American males make up 6.5% of our population but nearly 41% of those who are on death row in the United States. Of Oregon’s 60 executions, a disproportionate number were African American. Currently, there are a disproportionate number of African Americans on Oregon's death row.

"How do you reconcile a lynching?"

There are three r words within this idea of reconciliation--remembrance, repair, and redemption--and, in order for us to get to that last r word of redemption, we need to have the courage it takes to undertake the first two. Our failure to remember and repair the legacy of lynching is what has allowed it to evolve. So, how do you reconcile a lynching?

February 2020, the community of Coos Bay held a soil collection ceremony near the spot of the lynching and collected two jars of soil. One jar was sent back to a museum in Montgomery, AL and the other jar was turned into an exhibit at the Coos History Museum. June 2021, Coos Bay unveiled a historical marker in the community to memorialize Alonzo Tucker and the thousands of other African Americans who were lynched in this country.

The soil collection and historical marker were part of the "remembrance" phase of reconciliation. Now we must move toward "repair." In this case, we are called to repair the fundamental question of who our society believes deserves death because the answer continues to be disproportionately African American. The value of all African Americans, not just those on death row, are tied up in this question. It's time to prove that Black lives do matter.

Alonzo Tucker's story needs one last chapter--an end to lynching in Oregon. By using his story and this idea of historical repair to end the death penalty in Oregon, we can bring his memory a semblance of redemptive justice--the kind of justice that redeems our pain, our wrongdoing, and our stories.

There is a more just Oregon waiting for us as long as we have the courage it takes to get there.

How Can You Help?

Don't let your inability to do everything stop you from doing one thing.

Don't underestimate your ability to be the change you want to see in this world.

Oregon Remembrance Project (ORP)

ORP helps communities with truth and reconciliation projects about rectifying historical injustice. ORP connects historical racism to its present-day legacies in order to inspire contemporary racial justice action. Learn more about ORP here.

RIP Alonzo Tucker

May he rest in power.

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Signatures: 299Next Goal: 500
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