By Richard Fausset
September 20, 2011
Soon after the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles announced Tuesday that it was denying clemency to Troy Davis, the man convicted of killing a Savannah police officer, the Rev. Marvin Morgan, 63, showed up outside the board offices in downtown Atlanta and chained himself to the flagpole where the Stars and Stripes fluttered above.
A reporter encountered Morgan, a minister at Atlanta’s First Congregational United Church of Christ, around lunchtime as he was sitting on the ground in overalls, Nikes and a red, white and blue windbreaker, nearly alone on the concrete plaza outside the government building. For days, the plaza had been the site of protests that have drawn hundreds of people as Georgia moves forward with plans to execute Davis despite the recantations of numerous witnesses in his original 1991 trial.
Now, on this overcast afternoon, it was quiet — though not for long. Protesters said they plan to gather on the state Capitol steps at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Davis is scheduled to be executed at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Morgan, bespectacled, with a graying moustache and clerical collar, said he had begun a hunger strike to protest the execution.
“If the state of Georgia can intentionally kill a person in a case surrounded with this much doubt, then we’re all subject to the same fate,” he said. The long, looped chains, secured with a Master lock, were, he said, “saying that when one person’s in bondage, we’re all in bondage.”
“I am not insane,” he added. “I believe this act indicates my sanity more than anything else.”
A Capitol police officer approached and told Morgan he had chained himself to state property.
“I’ve been very careful not to damage the pole,” he replied.
The officer left, and Morgan bowed his head in prayer.
Moments later, there were a half-dozen police. One of them broke the chain with a bolt-cutter. Morgan told them they had the right to stay.
“Uh-uh,” one of the officers said. “You’re under arrest this time for criminal trespass.”
They dragged him to his feet, cuffed his hands behind his back and took him to a squad car.
The suspect stared ahead impassively at the traffic as it cruised serenely up Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.