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Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Report on Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break

The Alternative Spring Break was a great success! We collected more than 150 petition signatures at a rally in San Antonio (we will use those fresh names to re-start a moratorium resolution effort with the San Antonio city council). We got more than 130 signatures on a petition by going door-to-door in State Rep. Terry Keel’s district in Austin (this is more than a 50 percent success rate from the 234 people we actually came in contact with. We knocked on more than 700 doors, but a lot of people were not home. 

We are going to continue to test the door-to-door canvassing action to see if we can do a sustainable canvass, which is how the environmental movement has been able to build up such a strong grassroots base of supporters and donors. We are doing another door to door test canvass on March 20. 

If the canvassing continues to have a 50 percent success rate, then it will be worthwhile to do it on a regular basis. We also got 76 petition signatures at a predominantly African American church in North East Austin. We got more than 50 letters too, after we asked people when we went door to door if they would write letters and told them we would be back in a couple of hours to pick them up. Today, we delivered all the petition signatures and letters to a member of the Austin City Council. The door-to-door canvassing showed us that, if asked, more than 50 percent of all people will sign a petition calling for a moratorium, even in a conservative district like Keel’s! That bodes well in case we ever have a vote on a constitutional amendment or if we need to collect signatures to get a moratorium on a local ballot as an initiative.

The students we had from Rice and Austin seemed to feel like they were able to do a lot of productive, worthwhile work and said that they learned a lot from hearing Rob Owen, Jeanette Popp, Bill Vaught and Dennis Kucinich. They indicated that they may organize a forum or something at Rice in the Fall. Next year, we plan to hold Alternative Spring Break during the main spring break week, when all the rest of Texas colleges have off, instead of just Rice. So next year, we should be able to get many more participants, and so get more anti-death penalty college groups going at a bunch of Texas colleges. The students did interviews with KPFT, a Houston radio station, and with FOX 7 News in Austin, a TV station that had come out to cover the church activity. KXAN TV in Austin also interviewed Jeanette on Thursday. The Thursday forum was videotaped by Austin cable access and should air in a couple of weeks. Another good result of the ASB was that we found an inexpensive (ten dollars/night including meals) housing option in Austin at 21st Street Coop that is appropriate for people who come to Austin to do volunteer work or for the march in October.

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