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On the Day the Children Marched

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Children's Crusade Against the Death Penalty. Photo courtesy of the Bruderhof Society
Children's Crusade Against the Death Penalty,
Photo courtesy of the Bruderhof Society

On the day you marched they said

the angels were with you,

Winding through new Meadow Run and on

Down the highways, trouncing across

Inauspicious redneck counties and

Into buildings where God reigned.


Heading towards Babylon—braving the

Wind and the rain and Satan's fire—

You didn't come because of some

Twisted notion of heroism,

You weren't drawn by romantic visions

Of martyrdom or self-aggrandizement.

The thing is, you could have been anywhere—

Wallowing in the decadent playgrounds

of indifference,

Lolling in the murky dark shadows

Of blissful ignorance, yeah,

Safe and secure behind your impenetrable

Fortress of hypocrisy and indignation.


On the day you marched God smiled

down on you—

Because you see an injustice and

You want to correct it.

You see racism and you want to cure it,

And you see the brutal inequity of

Capital punishment and you want to abolish it.



When the Pennsylvania governor signed a death warrant for Reggie Lewis, an inmate at SCI Green State Prison, the children from nearby Spring Valley School knew they had to act. The kids, who had been penpals with Lewis, badgered their parents to drive them to Green County, where they marched up to the prison, waving signs and chanting, “Don't murder Reggie! He's our friend!" and "End the racist death penalty!" A few weeks later Reggie Lewis got a stay of execution. The elated children next organized the Children's Crusade Against the Death Penalty, a three-day, 30-mile march of 1,000 young people that attracted media coverage worldwide.

From Leaving Death Row, a collection of poems by Reginald Sinclair Lewis.

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Is It Time to Close the Prisons?
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