#FreeRodneyReed Day of Action reaches Chapman

From left to right, students Remy Lebel, Ally Viernes, Summir Wilson and Sule Murray hand out fliers to Orange residents supporting Rodney Reed. KALI HOFFMAN Photo Editor

Rodney Reed was scheduled to die Nov. 20, but after large public outcry and media attention, the Court of Criminal Appeals in Texas stopped the execution and ordered the consideration of new evidence Nov. 15.

Remy Lebel, a junior sociology major, organized a rally to free Rodney Reed Nov. 17. About 20 students gathered at the Attallah Piazza with colored markers and posters. The students sat in the piazza making posters with phrases like “#FreeRodneyReed,’’ “#BlackLivesMatter,” “Don’t leave this up to Kim K!” and “#notoallwhitejury.”

“When I heard about this case, I thought it was really messed up. The least I could do was host something locally to spread awareness and support for Rodney’s family,” Lebel said.

Lebel is one out of over 100 people who have planned rallies through The Action PAC, a political action committee that supports candidates who target racism and bigotry. Rallies are being held all over the country including Austin, Texas, Washington, D.C., New York City, Detroit, Michigan, among many others. Rodney Reed was convicted of the murder of Stacy Stites 23 years ago, but has maintained his position of innocence. Reed claimed that he and Stites had an affair at the time of her murder, as his DNA was found on her body. He was arrested based on the DNA tests. But new evidence has come to light, including a statement from Arthur Snow, a former inmate, who said Jimmy Fennell, Stites’ fiance at the time, confessed to killing her.

Kim Kardashian, who has been advocating for prison reform, took to Instagram Nov. 16 to speak about the case.

“Today, I had the honor of meeting #RodneyReed in person and the privilege of sitting with him when he got the news that the highest court in Texas had issued a stay of execution and remanded the case back to the trial court for further consideration,” Kardashian’s post read. “Words cannot describe the relief and hope that swept over the room in that moment. That hope had been building over the last few weeks around Rodney’s case.”

Summir Wilson, a senior creative writing major, attended the Chapman rally.

“This is not the only case there is a black man unjustly convicted and this is not the first time on death row that black men are being killed for no reason other than the color of their skin,” Wilson said. “It’s important that it comes to light to show the justice system is very racist and unjust to those who are not white.”

Wilson recalled The Central Park Five, who were wrongfully convicted for the rape of a woman in 1989.

“Black men always will be villainized and seen as a threat, starting from a young age,” Wilson said. “Black boys are seen as black before they are seen as a boy.”

After finishing the signs, the students walked around the Orange Plaza handing out posters with information about Reed’s case. As the students walked in the 90 degree weather handing out fliers, the students came across head-shaking pedestrians and stares at the “(Explicative) Racism” sign. A man came up to the students and began chanting “Trump, Trump, Trump,” as he walked past and kept on with his day. The students came back to campus and placed the signs in Argyros Forum on benches around campus and on the walls leading to the Lastinger parking structure. Wilson said she took part in the rally to encourage discussion on the topic, due to the lack of diversity on campus.

“To my experience, a lot of people don’t care about the things that happen outside of themselves,” Wilson said. “It’s important to raise awareness, because if you are not a person of color, it’s really easy to think racism doesn’t exist because you don’t experience it, but that is not the case. It happens all the time here and everywhere.”