Revolution #252, December 11, 2011
A Great Injustice for 30 Years—Mumia Must Be Free!
December 9 marks the 30th anniversary of the night Philadelphia police shot, beat, and arrested the revolutionary journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal. He has now been sitting in solitary confinement on death row for 29 years.
Shortly before dawn, on December 9, 1981, Mumia was driving a cab on a downtown Philadelphia street. He saw a cop viciously beating his brother, William Cook, with a metal flashlight. Mumia rushed to the scene. He was shot in the chest by the cop, and was found sitting on the sidewalk in a pool of his own blood. The cop lay on the street nearby, dying from bullet wounds. Arriving police attacked Mumia, who was well known to them as a revolutionary journalist and a former Black Panther, and arrested him for the murder of the cop.
At his 1982 trial, Mumia was denied the right to serve as his own attorney and was barred from the courtroom for half his trial. The prosecution claimed Mumia had confessed—a confession that cops only "remembered" months after the incident. Witnesses were coerced into giving false testimony. Key evidence was never seen by the jury. A court reporter overheard the trial judge saying that he was going to help the cops "fry the n****r." Mumia was convicted and sentenced to death.
A determined mass movement prevented Mumia's execution in 1995, but he was still denied justice and remained on death row. By 2000, Mumia's case had become an international issue. The European Parliament, Amnesty International, and others called for a new trial. In 2001 a federal district court judge upheld Mumia's conviction but overturned his death sentence because of unconstitutional jury instructions. In October, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed these decisions, leaving Mumia to face the prospect of life in prison without parole.
Revolution recently spoke with Pam Africa, leader of the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, about the current situation and ongoing importance of the struggle to free Mumia.
* * *
The Revolution Interview is a special feature of Revolution to acquaint our readers with the views of significant figures in art, theater, music and literature, science, sports and politics. The views expressed by those we interview are, of course, their own, and they are not responsible for the views published elsewhere in our paper.
* * *
Revolution: What does the experience of Mumia Abu-Jamal and his case tell us about the kind of society and government we live under?
Pam Africa: I've learned that no matter how many organizations and how many countries you have—the European Parliament, presidents of all these different countries, and people standing up on the front lines clearly stating that this is wrong—30 years later, we wind up with a decision from this government stating that Mumia would still get life without parole, it's time for people to stand up.
We can all shut this government down, by people supporting Occupy Wall Street. Here's all these youth up there, bringing that important much-needed attention to the problem. Occupy Wall Street is a good example of resistance to this government. That's what we have to do, resist. This is the government that wanted to just outright kill Mumia, and there would have been no ifs, ands, or buts about it, except for this powerful, powerful movement, which forced them to come up with this decision... forced them to say life in prison [ed.—rather than execution]. Now we can get them to release Mumia based on the evidence, because nobody can get around the fact of prosecutorial and judicial misconduct. Life in prison without the possibility of parole is unacceptable. I'm talking about what society can do, people who have humanity, people who have justice in them. We're not dealing with courts of law. We are dealing with courts of outlaw. The reason that Occupy is so strong right now is the same reason that Mumia is alive now—it's because of persistence. Wherever I'm at, I visit the Occupy to encourage them, to help keep them going.
Revolution: Where do you see going from here in this struggle?
PA: I see people mobilizing around the world, in Cuba, in Africa, Canada, all throughout the United States, in France, in Germany, in London and Amsterdam. People are outraged that this government could come up and say life in prison without parole after all that has been uncovered in these 30 years. The only call can be: Release Mumia. The one thing we do know is, if we let this go down with Mumia, it will continue for the many coming behind. It's not like Mumia is the first one that they have done this to. Mumia has been made an example, you know, because Mumia doesn't backpedal on his positions.
Revolution: Tell us about the big program you have coming up on December 9 in Philadelphia.
PA: What Mumia is asking people to do is come and take a stand. On December 9 we'll have a program at the National Constitution Center, with Brother Cornel West, Michelle Alexander, Vijay Prashad, Immortal Technique, Mark Lamont Hill, Ramona Africa, Michael Coard, Louisa Hanoune, Amiri and Amina Baraka, IMPACT Youth Repertory Theater, African Dance Ensemble, and a video statement from Desmond Tutu. The reason why people have stopped what they are doing to come here is that we have to send this government a loud, clear message: We are not going to allow you to get away with what you are trying to get away with. Our call has to be, Release Mumia!
ALL OUT FOR MUMIA
Revolution newspaper received the following information from a reader:
ALL OUT FOR MUMIA
Constitution Center, 525 Arch St, Philadelphia
NO TO LIFE IN PRISON, FREE MUMIA NOW!!!
HEAR: Cornel West, Immortal Technique, Ramona Africa, Vijay Prashad, Michelle Alexander (by video), Amina & Amiri Baraka, IMPACT Youth Repertory, African Drum & Dance Ensemble, Attorney Michael Coard
PICK UP PALM CARDS AT SOLIDARITY CENTER, 55 W. 17th St., 5th Floor,
Buses leave NYC at 3 p.m., $20 roundtrip from 33rd St. and 8th Ave.
If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.