Rage Concert for Mumia Draws Enemy Fire

Revolutionary Worker #992, January 31, 1999

Power to Rage Against the Machine for stepping out so boldly and organizing this benefit concert for Mumia. The rap group Beastie Boys signed on to perform and Bad Religion has been announced as the opening act. Tickets went on sale on January 14 and quickly sold out.

In the announcements for the concert, Tom Morello of RATM commented: "Mumia's trial was a gross miscarriage of justice. Just unbelievable. `Highlights' included prosecutorial misconduct, intimidation of witnesses by the police, suppression of evidence of Mumia's innocence, a jury illegally purged of African Americans, a hostile racist judge and a prosecution who argued for the death penalty based on Abu-Jamal's political beliefs! Mumia is an outspoken revolutionary, a hero to millions around the world and we will not allow his voice to be silenced... This is no ordinary show. We are playing for a man's life."

And in the Village Voice ad for this concert points out: "On October 30, 1998 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied Mumia Abu-Jamal's motion for a new trial. Mumia has always maintained his innocence... In 1995, hundreds of thousands of people around the world marched and won a stay of execution for Mumia. Now that his appeal has been denied, Governor Ridge could sign a death warrant at any moment. We join with Amnesty International in demanding a new trial for Mumia Abu-Jamal. It is now time for concerted action."

Greg Graffin, lead singer of Bad Religion, has been quoted as saying that the concert is intended to raise awareness about the racist use of the death penalty.

This concert comes at an important moment in the struggle to save the life of Mumia Abu-Jamal. It will awaken many thousands to the clear injustice of this case. And it will help raise much needed funds for the next stages of the struggle.

Threats and Attempted Police Censorship

The announcement of this concert was met with howls of outrage from reactionaries and police officials.

On January 11, the reactionary New York radio-jock Howard Stern launched a tirade against the concert--that revealed his complete ignorance of Mumia's case and his blatant support for police brutality. Stern denounced his own radio station, WXRK, for promoting the concert. According to a police news service Stern told listeners, "I am the only broadcaster who supported the LAPD during the Rodney King beating." He went on, "I'm proud of that beating. I like that beating." The New York Post denounced the concert in hysterical language and demanded the execution of Mumia.

New Jersey State Police Col. Carl William issued an open letter protesting that state troopers would be expected to "maintain law and order" at the Meadowlands on January 28. Frank Toscano of the New York Patrolman's Benevolent Association denounced the concert as "something really bad."

New Jersey Attorney General Peter Verniero issued a statement saying that the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority was unable to ban the event, saying his office had been defeated in a previous attempt to suppress a Marilyn Manson concert. At the same time, Verniero and New Jersey Governor Christine Whitman both denounced the Rage concert in public statements--adding their voices to the police chorus.

This concert is an important blow against the campaign to execute Mumia. And it is quite possible that the authorities and the police are actively looking for some way to attack the concert or punish Rage Against the Machine for stepping out so strongly.

The police internet news service APB has been circulating a thinly veiled threat from Rick Costello of the Philadelphia's Fraternal Order of Police: "Anybody attending this or promoting this is actively supporting the murder of police officers and will be looked on as such."

For supporters of Mumia and RATM, vigilance is needed in the days ahead. The authorities must be made aware that the whole world is watching, and that any sinister moves they make will be seen and opposed.

The band has our respect, and we must have their back.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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