On Friday evening, September 16, I attended a peace vigil at Martin Luther King, Jr. Square in Pensacola. The silent vigil focused on protesting the use of capital punishment in Florida. Protesters held a silent vigil for an hour. Many participants held signs in support of abolishing the death penalty, and several persons wore black tee shirts proclaiming I Have a Brother on Death Row, So Have You. The average person on Florida’s Death Row was approximately 30 years old at the time of his offense.
The vigil, held monthly and open to all concerned citizens regardless of faith, is sponsored by the Episcopal Peace Fellowship-Pensacola Area. The Episcopal Peace Fellowship (EPF) is a national organization connecting “all who seek a deliberate response to injustice and violence and want to pray, study and take action for justice and peace in our communities, our church, and the world. We are called to do justice, dismantle violence, and strive to be peacemakers,“ says the group’s website.
As a baptized Christian, I believe it is my responsibility to “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself” and to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being,” as the Prayer Book says. Although I have attended several EPF-sponsored vigils in recent months, the one on September 16 felt most urgent to me. Death is irreversible, and if new evidence appears later to show that the inmate had not committed the crime for which he or she was executed, it is too late.
Florida is second only to California in the number of death row inmates. From May 1964 until May 1979, Florida had abolished capital punishment, and it is my hope and prayer that I can be part of the movement to abolish capital punishment once and for all.
Sarah Elizabeth McCarren lives in Navarre and is a member of St Francis Of Assisi Episcopal Church in Gulf Breeze.