The crowd of around 30 people were surrounded by the names of the eight people executed by the federal government this year. Each name was drawn onto the sidewalk with chalk by those gathered for the public demonstrationFriday in People's Park in collaboration with the Free Billie Allen movement.
Starting at 3 p.m., demonstrators held signs saying “Free Billie Allen” and “Stop federal executions” in bold paint strokes. Sanitizing wipes were spread across tables and all attendees were wearing masks.
Billie Allen has been on federal death row for the past 23 years for armed robbery and the murder of a security guard, crimes he says he did not commit. Since then, he and his family have been sharing his story with others and calling for a retrial.
Patrick Saling, who helped plan the event with Zikra Fashir and the Eleanor Roosevelt Society, said the goal is to stop executions before more happen. For many of the people in attendance, these are not executions. These are murders. Two more federal executions are scheduled to take place before the end of the year. Before this year, there had been no federal executions for the past 17 years.
“At the very least, you can be damn sure that we will give witness to the evil and to the murder that’s taking place in our state,” Saling said. “We will also be there to say that we’re not just coming together, we are staying together. We are in this until we are free.”
Junior Shems Al-Ubaidi attended the demonstration not only to call for the release of Allen, but for the end of all federal executions. She said the Trump administration had prioritized these executions over other current issues.
“Our taxes should be going to health care and education, not to kill people,” Al-Ubaidi said.
Billie’s sister, Yvette Allen, and family have been fighting for her brother’s freedom since his conviction. She was also in attendance at the event, driving from St. Louis, Missouri.
Orlando Hall, a close friend of Allen’s, was executed Nov. 19. Allen’s friends and family are afraid Allen’s execution could be announced next.
“To know that I wasn’t there to mourn with the families that have already had their young men stolen from them it breaks my heart,” Saling said. “And I know it breaks y’all’s hearts.”
Saling and Fashir said it was important the group do more than empathize with those affected. Fashir emphasized how educating one another about these issues can empower imprisoned people.
“The most basic thing we can do in a society is care for those who are most vulnerable,” Fashir said. “Right now, the people on death row are the most vulnerable.”
Billie Allen called the group during the demonstration to thank those in attendance and share how he has been feeling about the movement in support of his release.
“I’ve been wondering why no one seems to listen,” Allen said over the phone from the U.S. penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana. “Just knowing you all are here to support me means the world to me.”
Donations can be made to help families affected by federal executions and death row through Venmo @eveallen and on the group’s GoFundMe page. The movement will make its way to Indianapolis on Saturday to demonstrate at University Square at 11 a.m. Afterward, the group will travel together to the U.S. penitentiary in Terre Haute.