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Protester turnout low for McVeigh execution

Protesters stand vigil in an area reserved for death penalty opponents outside the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, on Monday  

TERRE HAUTE, Indiana (CNN) -- Although the Federal Bureau of Prisons prepared for thousands of demonstrators to converge on Terre Haute, Indiana, for the execution of the most notorious mass murderer in U.S. history, only a few dozen showed up in the early hours of Monday to mark the grim occasion of Timothy McVeigh's death.

Opponents and supporters of the death penalty began gathering separately after midnight Sunday in two city parks. The Bureau of Prisons bused them to the grounds of the U.S. Penitentiary overnight.

"It should be done at noon, for everyone to see, not in the wee hours of the morning," said one of the 20 pro-death penalty demonstrators on the prison grounds, who carried a sign, "Thou shalt not kill."

Asked if the sign contradicted his stand on the death penalty, he replied: "McVeigh is going to be executed not because he stole a loaf of bread but because he murdered 168 people. At 7 a.m. we're not going to have a ticker- tape parade. We're going to feel sorry for Timothy McVeigh because he's going to meet his maker."

"Too many people are putting too much emphasis on Timothy McVeigh," said Peggy Harris, another demonstrator in the pro-death penalty group. "We're here for the 168 people who died and the hundreds more who were injured. We want them to know that we're on their side and not on Timothy McVeigh's side."

About 400 yards away, kept separate by a fence, a larger group of about 120 death penalty opponents sat on straw bales, some holding candles. One of their signs read: "I'm sorry, Tim."

"One thing we know for sure is the death penalty does not bring closure. It's just furthering the cycle of violence," said Jennifer Bishop.

Many people who oppose the death penalty are willing to make an exception for McVeigh, who has shown no remorse for the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. McVeigh has called the 19 children who died "collateral damage."

But there should be no exception, Eric Sears, 21-year-old student at St. Louis University who came with a group from Chicago, told The Associated Press.

"The death penalty is vengeance. It's not justice," he said.


• U.S. District Court, District of Colorado
• Federal Bureau of Investigation
• U.S. Department of Justice

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