Arkansas university students demand ‘Steps toward Justice’

Supporters of the West Memphis Three will assemble at the Arkansas State Capitol on Friday, April 20, in a rally organized by student activists at the University of Central Arkansas. The two-hour event, called Steps Toward Justice, will begin at noon.
Organizers scheduled the rally as a way to give students, whose semester ends in May, a chance to participate early in Worldwide Awareness Day. That event which will be held June 1-3, after most have left the campus.
Members of the university’s Demand Justice Panel are planning the event, which will feature speakers (including me), music, poetry and other activities. T-shirts printed with quotations about justice will be for sale. Anyone may attend.
The Demand Justice panel was formed in 2006, funded by a grant of $3,000 from the UCA Foundaton. Panel members conduct open-forum public discussions about wrongful conviction, particularly as it relates to the West Memphis case.
Since its creation last fall, the panel has made six public presentations at UCA. A final one will be held at 7 p.m., April 4, at the UCA Student Center.
Audiences range in size from individual classes to large groups or clubs. Because the case is multi-faceted, faculty members have found that discussions fit into courses on writing, political science, sociology, journalism, criminal justice, philosophy and religious studies.
Panel members are: Beau Jones, Cory Ingram, Treva Chrisman, Amanda Stewart, and Shari Ervin. UCA faculty members are Lanette Grate and Ted Dias.
I asked some of the panel members why they got so involved. Chrisman, a sophomore majoring in interior design, said she was motivated by the belief that “an injustice such as this one could happen to anyone.”
Stewart, a sophomore majoring in speech/language pathology, said she was concerned that “there was no physical evidence that connected the convicted three to the murders.”
Jones, a graduate teaching assistant in the math department, replied: “The actions of Judge Burnett, the prosecutors, and the West Memphis police during this case make me physically sick to my stomach.”
He continued: “I am appalled that justice was not served for the murdered children. This case, and only this case, makes me ashamed that I am an Arkansan. I will not sit in silence and watch our justice system crumble… I encourage you not to be silent either.”