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Sunday, September 24, 2023

JACKSON, Ga. - From outside a Georgia prison to a public square in France, hundreds who believe an innocent man was about to be put to death congregated Wednesday to protest, knowing that Troy Davis had nearly run out of options to stop his imminent execution.

Davis' supporters included celebrities and other well-known figures, such as the Rev. Al Sharpton, who was outside the prison in Jackson, home to Georgia's death row, where the crowd swelled to more than 500 by the time Davis was executed.

"I feel a mixture of outrage and sadness, sadness because we may lose a life of someone who's not been proven to be guilty," Sharpton said before Davis was given a lethal injection at 11:08 p.m. Wednesday.

Davis, 42, was executed for the 1989 slaying of Mark MacPhail, a Savannah officer killed while working off-duty as a security guard. MacPhail was rushing to help a homeless man being attacked when he was shot.

Davis insisted he was innocent until the very end. Still, the courts repeatedly upheld his conviction.

Davis has gained hundreds of thousands of supporters who hoped the courts would intervene to stop what they believe is an injustice one more time.

Besides Sharpton, Davis' allies include former president Jimmy Carter, Jessie Jackson, rapper Big Boi, who has tweeted his support, and the pope.

And everyday people also stood by his side.

Rashaan Sharif, 62, lives in metro Atlanta and only recently heard about the case for the first time on the radio. When he found out Davis supporters would be rallying outside the prison in solidarity, he decided to join them.

"I took off from work and I'm losing a day's pay, but it's a worthy cause," he said. "It's definitely a worthy cause. People need to stand up for truth and justice."

In Paris, a crowd of about 150 people gathered at the Place de la Concorde and held signs bearing Davis' image.

"Everyone who looks a little bit at the case knows that there is too much doubt to execute him," said Nicolas Krameyer with Amnesty International, adding the decision by Georgia's pardons board to deny clemency was a "miscarriage of justice."

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In Washington, D.C., dozens rallied outside the White House, many from historically black Howard University, in hopes of last-minute intervention from President Barack Obama. The president deflected calls for him to get involved in a statement issued by the White House.

Protesters there paused for a moment of silence, lifting their fists in the air and singing and cheering as at least a dozen at the rally were arrested.

"The fact that the White House hasn't addressed this issue is completely disrespectful," said Talibah Arnett, 20, a Howard junior.

Cassandra Bowler, 21, another Howard student said the protest was about more than Troy Davis.

"This fight is about the death penalty in the 21st century in America," Bowler said.

Not all outside the Jackson prison wanted the execution stopped.

Janet Reisenwitz was one of about a dozen people who showed up. She has family members who are police officers and said she was there to see justice served.

"They are grasping for straws and I would be too," the 55-year-old said of Davis supporters. "But all it does is delay justice and clog up the criminal justice system."

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