Report from Berlin: Freiheit Für Mumia!

Revolutionary Worker #908, May 25, 1997

During the last weekend in April, hundreds of people in Berlin, Germany took part in actions to protest the railroad of political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, who is on death row in a maximum-security prison in western Pennsylvania. The Action Days on April 26-27 were organized as part of the mobilization for the annual Revolutionary May First Demonstration in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin. The following account of these actions for Mumia are based on a press release from the May First Action Days Organizing Committee in Berlin and a talk with Robert Rockwell, National Secretary of Refuse & Resist!, who participated in the events.

The Berlin actions took place under the slogans "Stop the Execution" and "Free Mumia." The Student Council at the Free University of Berlin had paid for the printing of 2,000 posters and 10,000 leaflets for the Action Days.

On Saturday, April 26, about 300 people marched through the heart of the downtown shopping district to the U.S. Embassy for a rally. They came from a wide range of political and social backgrounds. There were a lot of youth, and people of various nationalities. Immigrant proletarians from Turkey were a significant part of the march. Leaflets were distributed, and signatures were gathered for a letter to Mumia as well as a protest letter to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. There was a large police presence in the streets.

The Organizing Committee reported in the press release, "The demand for a new trial and freedom for Mumia was made loud and clear. This demonstration was the largest demonstration in support of Mumia since 1995 that we know about and will hopefully inspire the many forces here who are supporting Mumia to move into action at this critical time."

That night, a solidarity and information program at Humbolt University was attended by about 110 people. Speakers included Michael Pannwitz (AstA-FU, Student Council of the Free University, Berlin), Dorothea (National Speakers Council--Ecological Left), Eren Kaya (May First Action Days Organizing Committee), Dan Williams (one of Mumia's lawyers) and Robert Rockwell. The organizers arranged simultaneous translations of the speeches in German, Turkish, and English. The press release from the Organizing Committee pointed out, "This represented a very wide range of political groups with widely varying and even conflicting views on different questions. However, they were all united on the need to build a powerful movement that will be able to actually force a new trial and eventually freedom for Mumia. The broad support and endorsements the Action Days received was reflected on the podium and showed that it is in fact possible to bring about such a unity."

The highlights of the evening were the speeches by Dan Williams and Robert Rockwell. Williams updated people on what is happening with Mumia's case and called on people to join this battle. Rockwell talked about what people needed to do to win freedom for Mumia. According to Rockwell, "The speeches were received very well. People were very glad that we came over from the United States to be there."

Another high point of the evening was a solidarity message--expressing support for the program and the struggle to free Mumia--sent by the lawyers who represent the political prisoners from RAF (Red Army Fraction). The message said, "We continue to demand that the death sentence against Mumia be lifted, that he be granted a new fair trial and freedom for all political prisoners in the USA. In 1995 our clients, the prisoners from the RAF, went on a hunger strike to protest against the carrying out of the racist death sentence against Mumia. The struggle for Mumia's life continues. Freedom for all political prisoners around the world!"

The Action Days were brought to a close on Sunday, April 27 with a film showing in the Kreuzberg district. The streets were closed off and a giant screen was hung from the pedestrian bridge crossing the Kottbusser Tor in the heart of Kreuzberg. The Kreuzberg community has the highest percentage of immigrant residents and unemployment in all of Germany. In the 1970s and '80s, the area became famous for the squatter movement which was centered there. Over the years the Kottbusser Tor has been the scene of hundreds of demonstrations around all kinds of issues.

So this was a very appropriate site for the open air showing of Behind These Walls--a documentary about Mumia's case and the history of police repression in Philadelphia against the organization MOVE. The 70-minute film includes interviews with people who knew Mumia from the time he was in the Black Panther Party as a teenager, during his years in the streets as a people's journalist, scenes of police attacks on MOVE houses and interviews with attorney Leonard Weinglass and Mumia himself. An audio/visual rental company in Berlin supplied a video projector at nominal cost and sent a technician to set up and run all the equipment needed for the showing at no charge to the Organizing Committee.

The Organizing Committee reported, "Over 200 people gathered to view the film. A more varied mix of people would be hard to imagine: veterans of the squatter movement, political activists together with neighborhood youth of a half dozen different nationalities, homeless people and passersby who just stopped to see what was happening. As the film began, quiet settled over the crowd as they attentively watched the story of Mumia Abu-Jamal and the struggle to free him unfold in front of them. The showing was interrupted in a number of places as people applauded statements and scenes of struggle in support of Mumia. At the end there was again big applause, and the people chanted the slogans 'Stop the Execution,' 'Free Mumia.'"

Robert Rockwell told the RW, "What's interesting is that the situation in Berlin is similar to the type of things happening in the U.S. There is a widespread war on immigrants there. There are people in the government who have said things like, `Immigrants are rats that need to be exterminated,' `Immigrants need to be exported back to their countries.'... They have the same kind of things happening around the criminalization of the people.... They don't have the death penalty there, but they see Mumia's case as representing something that's happening all across the world. Mumia is an international phenomenon." Rockwell said that the activists in Germany were very interested in knowing more about how Refuse & Resist! is working to unite people in the U.S.: "They wanted to hear about our October Month of Resistance, and about how Mumia's case has united different people to work together. They want to try to build the kind of movement we're building here, a kind of movement that unites all kinds of people to take up resistance."

The Organizing Committee reported that more than $1,000 was raised for Mumia's defense fund through the Action Days. The press release from the Organizing Committee summed up: "All in all we felt that the Action Days were a great success. Not just the large number of people who took part, but also the fact that they came from a very broad range of nationalities, political groups and opinions and backgrounds, including both experienced activists as well as people who have never been involved in any kind of political activity."

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