Stanley "Tookie" Williams was nominated for the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize this week. His supporters call him "wise," "compassionate," "well-read," and "wide-eyed like a child."
So just what are Tookie Williams' qualifications for one of the most prestigious honors in the world -- an award reserved for such eminent figures as Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Quakers, and the Red Cross? Williams is a hulking body-builder, recovering drug addict, co-founder of the violent Crips street gang in South Central Los Angeles, and resident of death row in San Quentin, Calif.
Never mind his blood-soaked resume. Williams is a leader and a great man, say his blind admirers. A do-gooder in the Swiss Parliament nominated Williams for his "extraordinary" work writing "gritty" children's books and organizing an "international nonviolence effort for at-risk youth."
The "Tookie Speaks Out" series targets readers from kindergarten up to high school-age. The books purportedly discourage kids from joining gangs. But their ultimate effect is to glamorize the criminal life. Each installment is illustrated with glossy photos of Williams in various stages of thuggery. The books also provide handy pronunciation guides to teach children the gang lexicon ("homeboy," "mobbing," "set-tripping," and "gangbanging," for starters).
San Quentin prison officials report that juvenile delinquents idolize Williams. His propaganda has been endorsed by the Congressional Black Caucus. As part of an ongoing public relations campaign to soften his image while he ties up the courts with specious legal appeals, Williams has been profiled sympathetically by People magazine, Time, the Los Angeles Times, and the ethnic press. He even appeared on a TV special introduced by President Clinton. Barbara Becnel, a crusading journalist who "edits" Williams' writings, once gushed that if the death-row inmate had "been raised in Brentwood instead of South Central, he'd be head of the state Democratic party."
Williams' groupies would have us believe that their Nobel Peace Prize nominee is a helpless victim of his environment, addled by low self-esteem, forced to turn to violence by racist oppressors, and now apologetic "for the atrocities which I and others committed against our race through gang violence."
Spare us the sob story. Here are the cold-blooded facts missing from Williams' Nobel Peace Prize application:
Williams was convicted of murdering four innocent bystanders with a sawed-off shotgun in 1979. There was nothing peaceful or compassionate about the way Alvin Owen, Thsai-Shai Yang, Yen-I Yang and Yee Chen Lin died. Owen was a white teenage clerk at a 7-11 convenience store, shot twice in the back of the head -- execution-style -- as he lay unarmed on the floor during a hold-up. A witness testified that Williams mocked the gurgling sounds Owen made as he lay dying. "You should have heard the way he sounded when I shot him," the witness quoted Williams.
The Yangs were Taiwanese immigrants who, along with their daughter Yee Chen Lin, were gunned down during a motel robbery two weeks after Owen died. Half of the daughter's face was blown off by the shotgun blasts, former L.A. County Deputy District Attorney Robert Martin told me in an interview this week. Williams called them "Buddhaheads," Martin recounted, and robbed them of petty cash.
Williams has yet to apologize to the victims' families. When the trial ended, Martin told me, Williams muttered to the prosecution team, "I'll get every one of you m-----f-----s."
Spoken like a Nobel laureate.
Tookie Williams was sentenced to die for these brutal crimes in 1981. But at the end of this year, he will have celebrated 19 more Thanksgivings, 19 more Christmases, and 19 more birthdays. That's 6,935 days more than Alvin Owen, Thsai-Shai Yang, Yen-I Yang and Yee Chen Lin were allowed to enjoy on this earth. We can only hope the Nobel committee sees through the soft-on-crime lobby's phony makeover of an unrepentant killer disguised as a death row Elmo doll.