Activists arrested ahead of US's 1 000th execution

Sixteen anti-death penalty activists were arrested late on Thursday in Raleigh, North Carolina, outside a prison that is scheduled to carry out the 1 000th execution in the United States since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976.

The 16 broke away from a group of 200 protesters gathered on an avenue bordering the prison, marched toward the prison and began kneeling and sitting when confronted by police.

“We’re here to stop the execution,” shouted one member of the group calling itself “The Parks Affinity Group” after the late Rosa Parks, a black seamstress who by refusing to give up her seat to a white bus passenger 50 years ago set the civil rights movement in motion.

The protesters were handcuffed by police and some were carried to an awaiting van and a bus as they were arrested.

“This was a peaceful demonstration,” said local chief of police Scott Hunter. “They just violated the rules,” he added, meaning the group had a permit to demonstrate on the street that did not extend to the prison, which is state property.

After the arrests, the other demonstrators began taking turns reciting the names of all the inmates put to death in this country since 1976.

Convicted double murderer Kenneth Boyd is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 2am (7am GMT) on Friday, making him the 1 000th person to be executed in the United States in the last 29 years.

The Supreme Court ruled in 1976 that executions were allowable under the US Constitution, which forbids cruel and unusual punishment.

“The 1 000th execution is a significant event in the nation’s 30-year experiment with capital punishment,” said Richard Dieter, director of the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Centre.

“But it is not indicative of an expanding or strongly endorsed use of capital punishment,” Dieter said.

“The impending milestone occurs at a time when the country is sharply moving away from the use of the death penalty.” - AFP