The first “Cities for Life - Cities against the Death Penalty” day was launched in 2002 by the community of Sant’Egidio in Rome, Italy. This community reached out to Lavelle last year, and she said she wanted to become a part of it as soon as possible.
“They asked me if our town would participate in recognizing the date and bringing awareness to it,” she said. “I did a little research and realized that it was something I thought our board would not mind me putting a proclamation out about.”
The day of awareness has grown from 80 cities in 2002 to more than 2,000 in 2015 in more than 90 countries. Some of these cities that recognize “Cities for Life - Cities against the Death Penalty” day include Buenos Aires, Hong Kong, London and Boston.
The date coincides with the anniversary of the first death penalty abolition in history in Tuscany in 1786.
“They decide to purposefully recognize this date to bring awareness to the way the death penalty is still implemented in many countries and just try to bring about awareness that not just as a nation, but as a world ... we ought to be looking toward a civilization that abolishes the death penalty,” Lavelle said.
The Rev. Jimmie Hawkins of Covenant Presbyterian Church is on the Board of Directors for Durham-based advocacy group People of Faith Against the Death Penalty. He said capital punishment does not statistically reduce crime and he views it as immoral.
“It just doesn’t make sense that we teach society that killing people is wrong by killing people,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins said he took a stand before the Durham City Council a few years ago during their vote to advocate for the abolition of the death penalty.
“I think that we need to, one, get in line with public opinion,” Hawkins said. “The support for the death penalty is decreasing year by year — I think it’s at an all time low right now.”
Maciej Krzysztoforski, a Chapel Hill resident, said he doesn’t believe the state has the right to kill people, and he stands with Carrboro in opposing the death penalty.
“This comes about in tragic situations, and I feel for the families,” he said. “But it’s better for everyone if the cycle of killing ends.”
Kate Thompson, a Carrboro resident, also supports the statement made by Lavelle against the death penalty.
“I think it’s important to show support, even if the death penalty is not necessarily relevant in Carrboro,” Thompson said.
Even if it is something that the community isn’t constantly aware of or interacting with, Lavelle said making the community’s voice heard is crucial. She said ultimately she hopes North Carolina abolishes the death penalty.
“It helps us, as a community, to reflect at least once a year on the injustice of the death penalty,” Lavelle said. “It might cause other communities or advocacy groups or even governing agencies to speak out similarly.”