Prayer vigil held in Roanoke for lynching victims in push to abolish death penalty

Five vigils held across Commonwealth

ROANOKE, Va. – More than a dozen people gathered in Roanoke on Friday, pushing to end the death penalty in the Commonwealth.

Five prayer vigils were held in different locations across Virginia, including one in Roanoke’s Wasena Park.

Organizers said that the death penalty has deep roots in racism and lynchings, two of which happened in Roanoke in the 1800s.

They said they’re concerned about racial inequities when it comes to capital punishment.

Speakers and attendees at the Roanoke vigil read the names of 47 lynching victims in Southwest Virginia and placed paper boats in the river in their honor.

One speaker said she hopes that a proposed bill to get rid of the death penalty passes the General Assembly.

“Yes, it has been used disproportionately against African Americans. And I think we need to examine why that is and to make sure that we stop doing that,” said Mary Atwell, a board member with Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

The vigils were hosted by Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy. They’ve gathered over 300 signatures from various faith leaders across the commonwealth in support of the bill.


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