Revolutionary Worker #1005, May 9, 1999
The marchers in San Francisco came from all over the Bay Area and Southern California--as well as from Colorado, Utah, Oregon, Seattle, Idaho, Minnesota, Arizona, Hawaii and Vancouver, Canada. The action was initiated by the Bay Area Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal and others.
The most striking thing about this day was the youth who brought their defiant spirit to the march. A loud and determined contingent of a hundred students from Oakland chanted "Ain't no power like the power of the people and the power of the people don't stop!" Over 300 students came from Santa Cruz--including 100 high school students who walked out of school on April 23 to demand freedom for Mumia. College students from Greeley, Colorado got their school to rent a van for the trip. The Mighty Zulu Nation hip-hop crew from Sacramento was in the house, as well as students from a Native American school in Arizona, skateboarders, punk rockers, Asian student organizations and young supporters of Mexico's Zapatista guerrillas.
An important breakthrough was the involvement of workers from the International Longshoremen and Warehousemen's Union (ILWU). The ILWU stopped work and shut down the West Coast docks from San Diego to Bellingham, Washington on April 24. The shipping companies reportedly tried to prevent this political action by the ILWU--but the work stoppage forced the rescheduling of thousands of tons of shipping. The day before the march, a guest editorial by Jack Heyman of the ILWU executive board appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle. Heyman wrote that there are two reasons for the union's strong support of Mumia. One is Mumia's long-time support of workers. Two, the recent police killings of Amadou Diallo, Tyisha Miller and other African Americans, along with the racist lynching of James Byrd Jr, "have resonated deeply among members in the heavily black unions of bus drivers, postal workers, hospital and longshore workers in cities across the country. Now the state of Pennsylvania is about to execute an outspoken black journalist..." An ILWU contingent joined the march.
Other groups in the march ranged from the Round Valley Indians for Justice--who celebrated the dropping of charges against Native activist Bear Lincoln, a victim of police frame-up for murder--to a large contingent of gay and lesbian activists. The October 22nd Coalition and the Stolen Lives Project displayed over 20 panels of the Stolen Lives Wall, documenting people killed by the police.
Stepping to the powerful beat of many drum corps, the marchers started from Dolores Park in the predominantly Latino Mission district and ended at the Civic Center in the heart of downtown. Among the many speakers at the rally were S.F. Supervisor Tom Ammiano, actors Ed Asner and Peter Coyote, Angela Davis and Jack Heyman.
Musical performances included Michael Franti of Spearhead and The Coup, who gave up part of the allotted time to let several Oakland students speak. A youth from the People of Color Task Force at Castlemont High School told the crowd: "Today, students from all over Oakland, as well as Castlemont, came out to represent. We came to represent the voices of rage. We came to represent the voices of our community. We came to say today that the youth, we are the tomorrow. We are the ones who will free Mumia."
The following are more voices from the march in San Francisco:
A youth from Fremont High School in Oakland: "It's like now Mumia is trapped. He don't have nowhere to go. And kids now, we're trapped, we don't have nowhere to go. So we got to fight his struggle. We're fighting a struggle for him as well as for our world. We are the future... Normally it would be all older people, but now the youth are getting tired of being under the gun. And we're starting to represent at things like this because we want to be heard."
Mary Alice Rodrigues, sister of Paul Bryant Rodrigues who was shot by the police in Petaluma: "I'm here today in support of Mumia Abu-Jamal. What he represents to me is righteousness and justice for people. And I feel that in his case there hasn't been any justice and he should be freed."
Ulysses Bella from the band Ozomatli: "I represent Ozomatli and the whole band is here to support Mumia Abu-Jamal and the millions of people who are not as famous or as well known as Mumia who are also in jail unjustly. I think that Mumia is one of many different problems that represent the faults of the system--like police brutality. So a lot of different people can relate to these different causes, and maybe it will spur them off to question different things, whether it be Yugoslavia or Peru or whatever."
Filipino man, supporter of BAYAN: "We support Mumia as part of a united front fighting against a common enemy, a common oppressor. We're fighting U.S. imperialism, which this is a manifestation of. We support the people's struggle here in the United States as well as in the Philippines and throughout the world."
An African American longshoreman: "We've been supporting Mumia Abu-Jamal for the past five years. We believe that the brother has been wronged and we're here to support this brother as best we can. It's just like with any political prisoner or any person, everyone has rights in this world and they have to fight for those rights. If somebody don't get behind them then they'll just be pushed under the cracks. This [pointing to the banner saying `An injury to one is an injury to all'] is our life blood. If a person gets hurt in the Longshore Division we all stand behind him. We also stand behind this brother Mumia Abu-Jamal."
Member of Pipefitters Union: "I know the facts behind the Mumia case, that's why I'm here. It's political. Go back to Mooney, Billings and all that, all the labor trials around the turn of the century. It's the same pattern. They put you on trial for your politics, not for any particular act you might or might not have done."
Marcher who came with 350 people from Santa Cruz: "On April 23, the Santa Cruz Coalition to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal participated in one of many international student walkouts that took place. We did a lot of flyering before and after school, talked to a lot of kids, doing one-on-one contact. We faced a lot of administration blockades. But, yesterday, as we were preparing for our march, we encountered about 100 high school students from Santa Cruz High School, the public high school, all standing across the street from the high school with their fists in the air, shouting `Free Mumia,' and they all had signs with Mumia's face. It turns out the high school students had been organized by a youth who is 16 years old. The students from Santa Cruz High were encouraging their comrades and classmates to come out and support Mumia and stand in solidarity with students around the world. They spoke to the reasons why Mumia was relevant to their lives and their reality. Unfortunately, the administration locked the front doors to the high schools and kept the students in so they could not leave and join us in the march. And then the police came. We decided to expose the role of the police, their historical role in repressing popular movements or the people's will, and we continued on to the police station. We had people speak out on a bullhorn while a lot of us rallied, and we named a lot of the victims of police brutality that can be found in the Stolen Lives Project."
Castlemont High student from Oakland: "I think it's an unfair case. They can't prove him guilty, so why is he still in jail? That's why we're here, to represent our school, to represent Mumia, and to let people know that we're not playing, we really want Mumia out! They're trying to kill him because he's a political prisoner and he's trying to fight for what is right."
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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