VIENNA, Austria – California's execution of Stanley Tookie Williams on Tuesday outraged many in Europe who regard the practice as barbaric, and politicians in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's native Austria called for his name to be removed from a sports stadium in his hometown.
"We know the death penalty doesn't resolve anything," Cardinal Renato Martino told the press. "Even a criminal is worthy of respect because he is a human being. The death penalty is a negation of human dignity."
Capital punishment is illegal throughout the European Union, and many Europeans consider state-sponsored executions to be barbaric. Those feelings were amplified in the case of Williams, due to the apparent remorse they believe the Crips gang co-founder showed by writing children's books about the dangers of gangs and violence.
Leaders of Austria's pacifist Green Party went as far as to call for Schwarzenegger to be stripped of his Austrian citizenship — a demand that was quickly rejected by Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel despite his government's opposition to the death penalty.
"Whoever, out of political calculation, allows the death of a person rehabilitated in such an exemplary manner has rejected the basic values of Austrian society," said Peter Pilz, a Greens leader.
In Schwarzenegger's hometown of Graz, local Greens said they would file a petition to remove his name from the southern city's sports stadium. A Christian political group went even further, suggesting it be renamed the "Stanley Tookie Williams Stadium."
"Mr. Williams had converted, and unlike Mr. Schwarzenegger, opposed every form of violence," said Richard Schadauer, the chairman of the Association of Christianity and Social Democracy.
Williams was executed early Tuesday at California's San Quentin State Prison after Schwarzenegger denied Williams' request for clemency. Schwarzenegger suggested that Williams' supposed change of heart was not genuine because he had not shown any real remorse for the killings committed by the Crips.
Criticism came quickly from many quarters, including the Socialist Party in France, where the death penalty was abolished in 1981.
"I am proud to be a Frenchman," party spokesman Julien Dray told RTL radio. "I am proud to live in France, in a country where we don't execute somebody 21 years later."
"Schwarzenegger has a lot of muscles, but apparently not much heart," Dray said.
In Italy, the country's chapter of Amnesty International called the execution "a cold-blooded murder."
"His execution is a slap in the face to the principle of rehabilitation of inmates, an inhumane and inclement act toward a person who, with his exemplary behavior and his activity in favor of street kids, had become an important figure and a symbol of hope for many youths," the group said.
In Germany, Volker Beck, a leading member of the opposition Greens party, expressed disappointment. "Schwarzenegger's decision is a cowardly decision," Beck told the Netzeitung online newspaper.
From London, Clive Stafford-Smith, a human rights attorney specializing in death penalty cases, called the execution "very sad."
"He was twice as old as when they sentenced him to die, and he certainly wasn't the same person that he was when he was sentenced," Stafford-Smith said.
Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni said the city would keep Williams in its memory the next time it celebrates a victory against the death penalty somewhere in the world.
Rome's Colosseum, once the arena for deadly gladiator combat and executions, has become a symbol of Italy's anti-death penalty stance. Since 1999, the monument has been bathed in golden light every time a death sentence is commuted somewhere in the world or a country abolishes capital punishment.
"I hope there will be such an occasion soon," Veltroni said in a statement. "When it happens, we will do it with a special thought for Tookie."