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  • Rob Will

A Beautiful Thing And A Dreadful Thing Happened Today

Updated: Sep 29, 2023

A beautiful thing and a dreadful thing happened today . . . I woke up first thing in the morning to go to recreation – one hour out of my cage to walk around a larger cage. I went out and talked to Egbuno for a while about protest strategy and other things.

A few months ago, Shannon Thomas (a.k.a. “Big Tank”) was given an execution date for today, November 16th. Me and Big Tank had never really talked before, but I decided to holler at him. Egbuno is in 74 cell and Big Tank was in 73 cell. I asked him if he was going to refuse to participate in his own murder by making them carry him to his execution. He told me that he’d been thinking about it. I talked to Big Tank about Houston, where we were both born and raised, music, and other things.

As we were talking, he was passing out some of his stuff to other guys on the section. It seemed horrible that a man scheduled to die in a few hours should make his last act on this pod an act of charity. It just didn’t seem right. I thought, “Shouldn’t we be giving Big Tank something?” But of course, there was nothing we could give him. Guys aren’t allowed to take any property with them over to Huntsville, the unit where they are executed.

The Lieutenant came and asked Big Tank to fill out some papers to release the money on his commissary account and the picket officer came on the speaker: “73 cell, what size jumper do you wear?” I just couldn’t believe their indifferent attitude! I thought, “You’re asking a man what size clothes he needs, the clothes he’s going to be executed in, and you can’t even say his name, just 73 cell?” These officers are heavily conditioned to be indifferent, so I shouldn’t of been surprised, really.

After the Lieutenant left me, Egbuno and Big Tank kept talking. One of the last things Big Tank said before the escort officers took him off the pod was, “I just can’t see myself walking to my own murder.” As Big Tank was leaving, he was sweating, even though it was probably 55º in here. He had a look on his face that I can only describe as mortal fear. Not fear derived from cowardice, but fear of the unknown.

I told Big Tank to, “hold it down.” He hollered at me and some others and then left off the pod. I finished talking to Egbuno and when my recreation time was over, I went back to my cell. I was wondering if Big Tank was going to protest his execution. As I’ve said, only six people have protested their execution out of the 350+ that have been legally murdered by the State of Texas. Many have said they were going to fight or make the officers carry them, but when it comes down to their date, they haven’t.

I hollered at Jaime and Egbuno and asked them to scream at me when Big Tank came out of his last visit. Then I went to sleep . . .

“BIG TANK!” “ALREADY!” “HELL, YEAH!” “I SEE YA BIG TANK!!!!!” I woke up to everyone screaming and beating on the little three inch windows in our cells. I folded my mattress in two, hopped on it, and looked out the window. About 20 officers were on the outside walkway, and Egbuno told me they just wheeled Big Tank by on the stretcher. I couldn’t see him from my cell because they wheeled him back into the building to change clothes. They give everyone a new jumpsuit before they are murdered. As I was looking at the execution van that was about to take Big Tank to Huntsville, I kept thinking about how much intimidation he was facing. I’m sure they were pulling every available “compliance” maneuver known.

Everyone from the Warden on down was out by the death van, but they didn’t have the snide little smirks on their faces they usually have right before executions. They normally stand around laughing and joking with their counterparts from Huntsville. Today, they had expressions of confused anger.

“BIG TANK!” “BIG TANK!” Everyone began cheering and beating on their windows – they were wheeling Big Tank out to the van on the stretcher!! He no longer had a look of fear on his face, his head was held high in defiance, and he wore a look of triumph as they put him in the van. It was beautiful!

I haven’t received hardly any mail in almost two weeks. That’s why I haven’t been sending out any postings. I don’t even know if anyone has read what I’ve been writing. I don’t even know if my updates from the beginning of the protest have been posted. That’s pretty discouraging, but I have remained and will remain completely dedicated.

Since my last writing, which I believe was November 3rd, I’ve conducted two more sit-ins, Egbuno has conducted one, and Kenneth Forster, Gabriel Gonzalez, Andre Simpson, and Reggie Blaton have started protesting down on E-pod. To start off their part in the protest, the first three refused to leave the recreation yard, got gassed, and were forcibly removed by the Emergence Response Team (ER). Reggie Blaton conducted a sit-in.

350+ human beings have been legally murdered by the State of Texas and Big Tank was only the 2nd to offer peaceful, non-violent, resistance. No one has ever protested before their execution date like Egbuno is doing. And no one has ever protested another person’s execution like myself and others are doing. Does everyone reading this understand the significance of what is going on here?!

From the Texas Gulag,

With Strength and love

Robert G. Will, #999402

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