5,000 in the Streets for Mumia
Revolutionary Worker #937, December 21, 1997
December 6, San Francisco: Thousands of people gathered in the Panhandle, just east of Golden Gate Park, and marched over two miles to a rally in support of political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal in downtown San Francisco. Throughout the day 5,000 people participated in the action.
Loud drum corps gave the whole march a militant beat. Chants included, "Tear down the prisons, wall by wall, free Mumia Abu-Jamal" and "Philly Cops, FBI, we won't let Mumia die." A banner from the RCP read: "Revolutionaries Must Not Be Killed for Their Beliefs. Mumia Must Be Free!" A crew from the artists group Art and Revolution built a huge replica of Mumia's prison and then tore down the walls and busted out a huge figure of Mumia.
The majority of the marchers were youth. They came from the ghettos as well as Stanford University. There were homeless youth and middle-class professionals. Marchers from Nigeria carried signs in support of Ken Saro Wiwa, a Nigerian activist executed by the Nigerian regime. One group of a dozen students told the RW that Ramona Africa spoke to their class in school and armed them to take on all the lies being spread about Mumia. The loudest contingent in the march was the Refuse & Resist! crew with their "It's All One Attack" banner. A homeless Black man from the Mission district said his organization, Mission Agenda, was taking up the fight to free Mumia. The October 22nd Coalition Against Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation carried a huge flag saying "Free Mumia Now." A hundred youth marched in an anarchist contingent. A proletarian Black man told the RW that he met Mumia when he was a 17-year-old member of the Black Panther Party. An environmentalist came from the Rocky Mountain Peace Center in Colorado after a discussion there about ending the death penalty. Some bike riders from Critical Mass came. A group came from Fresno after they heard about the march on the R&R! web site. A woman in her forties with her two teenage daughters told the RW that when she heard Mumia's commentaries on Pacifica radio, it "touched me deeply. It's unbearable to think how many years he's been locked up."
Dozens of speakers brought different perspectives to the fight to free Mumia. Representatives of the city governments of San Francisco, Berkeley and Santa Cruz supported the march. People gave moving testimony about why the fight to save and free Mumia is so crucial.
Ramona Africa, the only adult survivor of the 1985 MOVE Massacre, delivered a powerful challenge to people, saying: "When we back this system off of Mumia, we have backed this system off of all of us and taken a giant step forward to knocking this system down, getting it off all of us."
Other speakers included Robert Meeropol, whose parents, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, were political prisoners executed by the govrnment in the 1950's; Christina Vasquez from Compañeros del Barrio; Actor Ossie Davis; Bear Lincoln, a Native American recently acquitted of a murder frameup and now facing an outrageous re-trial; Walter Johnson from the San Francisco Central Labor Council; Angela Davis; David Lester from the National Council of Refuse and Resist!; Gulf War resister Erik Larson; Danny Garcia Jr. from the October 22nd Coalition Against Police Brutality; the ACLU and many others.
The march and rally in San Francisco, as part of the national day of struggle to free Mumia, shows that the people's strength in this battle is growing. And it shows the basis and urgent need to step up the battle, even more, to free Mumia.
The following are excerpts from speeches at the December 6 Rally for Mumia in San Francisco:
Ramona Africa: I want to make sure that you understand that it ain't Mumia that's on trial, it's the system that's on trial. It's each and every one of us that's on trial. And what we intend to do about an innocent man sitting on death row. An innocent man that this government is determined to kill. It was said that Mumia is not the only political prisoner--that is absolutely true--Mumia is in fact the only political prisoner sitting on death row in the United States and that makes him important. What also makes Mumia important is that Mumia uses his journalistic skills not to talk about himself and his case but Mumia writes about Leonard Peltier, Mtulu Shakur, Geronimo Pratt. He writes about the homeless people. He writes about others that are murdered by this system. Mumia writes about the crimes of our oppressor. I am so happy to see so many faces out here, different colors and nationalities, because it means that we are beginning to understand the urgent necessity of unity. Unity is the foundation of revolution. John Africa, MOVE's founder, had taught us that our enemy has plenty of differences among themselves but they never, ever let that interfere with them coming together to oppress us. Therefore, we can't allow them to build any dividers amongst us that would keep us from coming together to fight them. We got one mission, one fight. I don't care if you are Latino, Black, Asian or whatever, we got one fight. We got one enemy. Mumia's case is in the spearhead of that fight solely because his case represents everything, everything that is wrong with this system. And we understand that when we bring Mumia home, when we back this system off of Mumia we have backed this system off of all of us and taken a giant step forward to knocking this system down, getting it off of all of us.
Ossie Davis: One of the first questions that I am asked often times by the press is this: They say we know how old you are but how you stay so pretty? Well, every chance I get I go to join the people. And there you are. I am happy to be here because I know that struggle is of the essence in overcoming and survival.... A long time ago I was introduced to a struggle around a case to secure some kind of justice for the Scotsboro Boys, which is what we called them then. And the lesson of that struggle that I brought away was that no matter what the functionaries of the courts and of the system had in mind as an intent they are always amendable to pressure from the people, if we, the people organize ourselves and let our voices be heard and put our feet in the street and march to express our determination, power will listen. Power concedes nothing without a demand, Frederick Douglass said, and we have to be prepared to make the demand. But the only credible demand that power concedes to is the demand made by a counter power. We have to put our power out there against their power to let them know that we will not idly lie down and let them run over us. It is our numbers, it is our voices, it is our passion, it is our capacity to endure and to get up off the floor time after time after time and go back into the ring for one more swing at evil. That's the way to be young.
Robert Meeropol, Director of the Rosenberg Fund for Children, son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg: I've been speaking about my parents' case for several decades and during the 1970s when my brother and I began the effort to reveal what happened in their frameup, I was traveling in Philadelphia and there was a local radio host and he agreed to have me on his radio program. He gave me a platform to spread the truth about their frameup. He gave me a whole hour. And we talked together and as many interviewers did at the end of the hour he asked me that question: Did I think something like what happened to my parents could ever happen again in this country. Well, we thought about it and we both agreed, given racism, given the nature of the court system, that it could happen again. And now that interviewer, Mumia Abu-Jamal, faces the death penalty. Yes, he actually predicted what has happened to him.... If you look today at the movement to save Mumia Abu-Jamal's life, what do you find? You find there are many people who believe that he is totally and completely innocent, that he is in prison because he is an ex-Black Panther, because he is a MOVE supporter, because of the racism of this country. There are plenty of people here today who believe just that. But there are others who know about what went on in Judge Sabo's courtroom. And they look at how unfair that trial was, and they know about how the police pressured the witnesses against Mumia and they know as time has gone on how each and every one of those witnesses has recanted. And they look at a trial like that and they say, we don't know whether he is guilty or innocent but we know that was an unfair trial and a trial that is so unfair can't prove anything. You shouldn't even take someone's drivers license away in a trial like that, let alone put him on death row. And then there are those who simply say the death penalty is wrong and that this killing has got to stop. The point that I'm trying to make is that there must be room in our movement for all of those positions because the bigger our movement, the more likely it is that we are going to save Mumia.
Bear Lincoln: I was acquitted of manslaughter 10 to 2 and now the DA wants to try me again for the same charge. The jury was great, they discovered the truth, they heard the evidence, and they ruled in my favor that I was not guilty of killing a sheriff's deputy. And I'm really happy to see all of the support here for Mumia today. This is really, really important. All of your support is what we need. In my case, those of you who supported my case, it was tremendous, it had a big impact on the jury and on the public and just keep it up. There is a mixture of all people here. There's all colors here and this is what we need. We need solidarity--for Mumia Abu-Jamal, for Leonard Peltier, for myself and for all of us--we're all stronger together, united. Thanks to all of you for your support.
Christina Vasquez, Executive Director, Compañeros del Barrio: I want us to remember as we stand together demanding the freedom of Mumia, that there are many other political prisoners standing with Mumia together with us today. And we must take a stand with them and for them. There are hundreds of political prisoners in this country, from Puerto Rico, Native Americans, Blacks, Latinos and working class whites. And also in Latin America there are many prisoners that are the victims of this same government that has put Mumia in jail and wants to kill him. And they are responsible for the thousands of deaths that happens in Latin America--Chile, Columbia, Argentina, Nicaragua, El Salvador. They are guilty and they must pay for that. Right now, at this very moment, in the Chilean's prison there are 150 political prisoners, some of which are sentenced to death, too. In Columbia we have over 500 political prisoners and in Peru, it breaks my heart, there are almost 7,000 political prisoners in the hand of the government that are being tortured by the Fujimori government.
Erik Larsen on behalf of Scott Kennedy (vice mayor of Santa Cruz): In my own life at one time I was faced with the death penalty. I was put in handcuffs for 21 hours, shipped to North Carolina, and told that for my political actions against the Gulf War, for uttering disloyal statements that I was going to face the death penalty... When I was sitting in solitary confinement, it was the spirit, knowing that no matter what the U.S. government was going to say, no matter what the U.S. government was going to do to my body, no matter what the U.S. government was going to do in terms of starvation, hunger, food, my mind was free. I knew that people were outside marching and trying to win my freedom. And it is the spirit of Mumia, today, as he sits in that little cell, that is here today with us. It is you folks, the spirit within us, and the spirit right here at this march that is going to win Mumia and get him a new trial."
David Lester from Refuse & Resist!: What do each of the following have to do with Mumia Abu-Jamal? Demonizing immigrants. Criminalizing Black and Brown kids. Ruling by force. Hassling reproductive freedoms. Cutting money for schools. Snatching welfare from the poorest Americans. Denying medical care. Building prisons as a growth industry. Jailing minority males in alarming numbers and executing ever increasing numbers of them annually. What they all have to do with Mumia Abu-Jamal is that they and he are each front line battles of an attack against America's "expendable people." Now we know that there are no expendable people. But that notion is abroad in the land. Mumia knew that, he understood that, he spent his career writing for the people who had no voice. He made serious enemies and they're punishing him severely, including threatening his life. I'm here supporting Mumia on behalf of Refuse and Resist! As was said we are a national organization opposed to the politics of cruelty that drives this attack on America's "expendable people." We have a different vision, too--a vision that opposes the notion of this attack. And that is a vision where Mumia would not be in prison but would be out here showing us all how we are going to do this if we are going to make a nation for our children and their children to live in for a long time to come.
S.F. Supervisor Tom Amiano: This is a certificate of honor from the Board of Supervisors, City and County of San Francisco, basically it says: "To the Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, in recognition of your efforts to free America's most well-known and innocent death-row prisoner, Mumia Abu-Jamal, preserving truth and justice is vital to the preservation of American democracy, and for that I salute you."
Walter Johnson, Secretary/Treasurer of the San Francisco Central Labor Council: First of all I want to say to all of you, and to those who organized this, that I really can't say thank you enough for going against the tide, for standing up and being ready to be counted and make that fight.
Andre Herron from the ACLU: Governors, you have blood on your hands. Attorney generals, you have blood on your hands. Court system, you have blood on your hands. Presidents, you have blood on your hand. On behalf of the ACLU of Northern California, let the word go forth, as long as we have breath in our bodies we will not acquiesce, we will not remain silent, we will never be a party to the state-sanctioned killing of another. Free Mumia Now!
Pierre LaBoissiere, leader of Bay Area Haitian American Council: I love brother Mumia because he loves the people. I love him because he is a revolutionary and he is committed, but above all I love him because he took his talents, his gifts, and put out the people's aspirations, the people's voices. He put it out there so all of us, worldwide, could hear what our people are saying.
Kilu Nyasha, Jericho '98: We want everyone in Washington, D.C. on March 27.... Go to Washington, D.C., go to the capitol, surround the White House, and demand the release of all of our political prisoners, the sisters and brothers who fought for you, who fought for the ethnic studies programs that you are now participating in, who fought for decent housing, who fought against hunger, who fought for child care, who fought for universal health care, who fought for universal education, who fought against racism, against the death penalty, against police brutality, against unjust war. We want you to free our heroes and Mumia Abu-Jamal is one of the finest of our leaders, of our voices, and he must be heard and we need him out here.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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