Coast to Coast:
Mumia Awareness

Revolutionary Worker #1025, October 10, 1999

As we go to press: The Supreme Court is about to hand down its verdict on Mumia's previous appeal--a petition for a writ of certiorari. If they turn down this petition, the Governor of Pennsylvania may sign a death warrant.

Meanwhile, Mumia's legal team are preparing to file their last legal appeal--for a writ of habeas corpus--sometime this month in Philadelphia's District court. This will demand that a federal judge hear the evidence and witnesses that were barred by the Pennsylvania courts--and grant Mumia a new trial. At the recent torchlight march in Los Angeles, Mumia's lawyer Leonard Weinglass described this move into the federal courts as the beginning of "our final fight for Mumia's life."

As the struggle enters a new and crucial phase, people everywhere need to be active, alert and prepared to respond.

From September 19 to 25, people stepped out for Mumia Abu-Jamal across the U.S. and the world--fighting to expose the machinery of injustice that is trying to execute Mumia Abu-Jamal. This was a week of straining to raise this struggle to a higher level.

Thousands participated actively in at least 96 cities. Their energetic and creative outreach touched many hundreds of thousands--both directly and through local media coverage in many cities.

The response to these efforts was encouraging--when people heard about the government attempt to silence Mumia, they expressed interest and deep concern--and significant numbers hooked up for future activities.

Very diverse forces worked together in this common cause--many of them for the first time. New organizations formed during the week itself--including a student group at Princeton, a teachers' coalition in Los Angeles, and the Pensacola Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal. Important efforts were made to take Mumia's case out broadly in the Black and Latino communities.

The week of activities culminated in significant demonstrations on September 25. In RW #1024 we reported on some of the largest of those events--in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco, Detroit, Madison, Montreal, and Paris.

Since then we have a better picture of the many other actions--the teach-ins, vigils, video showings, leafleting, tables, meetings, mailings, debates, resolutions, forums, car caravans, postering and intense discussions that made up Mumia Awareness Week. We cannot possibly report on all the activities we have heard about--and we certainly have not heard about all the activities that happened.

What we will do here is give a sense of this effort--through snapshots of the major events, soundbites of participants and some brief shout-outs from this week of awareness. We want to offer thanks to all the activists, reporters and correspondents who made this report possible, including especially the national office of Refuse & Resist!

"Mumia, bless his heart, has become a symbol around the world not to free Mumia, but to end the death penalty. He's a symbol because he's courageous, because he's articulate, because he's got guts. He's a very gentle, wonderful, intelligent man.... This guy is not going to stop saying who he is and he's not going to stop saying that we've got to change this country from the ground up. And without you and without us we're not going to get him out and we damn well are not going to let them kill him, are we?"

Frances Goldin, literary agent for Mumia,
Columbia University, Sept. 22

"The case of Mumia highlights the racist and arbitrary character of the death penalty especially when applied to people of color.... With your commitment, with your activism, with your struggle to end the death penalty and to free Mumia Abu-Jamal, we will begin the process of transforming this entire country."

Prof. Manning Marable,
Columbia University, Sept. 22

"My dad, Dr. David Gunn, was an abortion provider in Pensacola, Florida. My father was stalked, harassed, and intimidated for years before his murder... As my dad got out of his car, Mr. Griffin, the killer, sneaked up behind him and shot him three times in the back. The scenario above clearly represents a premeditated assassination. However, as opposed to Mumia, Mr. Griffin comes from a well-connected, prominent, `white' family; the death penalty was never a factor in his prosecution... If you have the misfortune of being an African American revolutionary, the blindfold of justice is removed, she drops her balanced scales and she attacks wildly with a double edged sword."

David Gunn Jr., for Refuse & Resist!,
Atlanta, Sept. 25

"I support not only freeing Mumia, not simply a new trial. But I also insist that that is not enough. We must be committed to overthrowing this justice system which means that ordinary people are exploited and executed for no reason at all."

Rev. James Lawson, Los Angeles, Sept. 25

"The power structure must be made to fear the consequences of carrying through this execution from many sides: from millions of people who previously believed in the system losing faith in its justice, to international condemnation, to disruption of schools and work places, to the threat of another Los Angeles rebellion. But the threat that this system would suffer a very high price must be real and growing."

C. Clark Kissinger, Refuse & Resist!,
contributing RW writer.

On Campus, In the Streets

"At first, people were like, `What the hell? Why are you giving me a sheet of paper to read. I'm not interested.' But I urged them to read at least the first segment, and just about every single person became enwrapped in the story and were shocked to discover what was/is going on in this country. I got many, `This is going on here?!' and `Wow, how could this possibly be true?'"

High School Student

"We have to take history in our hands."

Student, third world Liberation Front,
UC Berkeley

"I'm here to say that we want solutions, not executions. We've had enough of this philosophy of hypocrisy, all right?"

High school student, NYC, Sept. 25

"He's looking death in the face and he's still pushing on. And that's an inspiration to me. I look up to him."

Student, Eugene Lang College

Mumia Awareness Week was marked by events on college and high school campuses. Contingents of students and youth were at the frontlines of actions all week. In New York City, they energized the march with their chant "Mumia is fearless so are we!" In Chicago, the rowdy youth contingent startled the police by taking the street on Sept. 25.

Over 150 people packed a Columbia University lecture hall for a "Live from Death Row" forum organized by the Campaign Against the Death Penalty and featuring Manning Marable and Frances Goldin. Two prisoners of Illinois' Death Row 10 spoke by phone and described how torture had been used to extract confessions.

Four hundred attended a day-long teach-in at the Community College of Philadelphia. A teach-in at Princeton featured authors Robin D.G. Kelley and Farah Jasmine Griffin.

On Sept. 25, on the University of California campus in Berkeley, over 100 people attended "The Road to Freedom: The Fight for Justice Enters the Crucial Stage"--organized by the twLF and the Black Radical Congress.

That same day in Los Angeles, UCLA students joined activists from all over the city in a powerful torchlight march of 400 people through the streets around their Westwood campus.

Consciousness-raising activities and protests were held at many other colleges and universities including: University of Maryland, several campuses of the University of Wisconsin, Long Beach City College, Monterey Bay Cal State, Georgia State, Spelman College, Emory University, Morehouse University, Perimeter, L.A.'s Cyprus College, Santa Monica City College, Vassar College, San Bernardino Valley College, San Francisco State, Cuyahoga Community College, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland State University, Detroit's Wayne State, University of Hawaii, Tennessee State University, Wesleyan University, Minneapolis' Macalester College and Augsberg College, Casanova College NY, Staten Island College NY; Oberlin College, Temple University and Hunter College NY.

After a successful street demonstration in Weymouth, Massachusetts, 30 kids followed up with a high school walk-out. Three were arrested, and the principal threatened to turn names over to police. But one report says everyone remains totally "psyched."

In Oakland, California, there were activities for Mumia at Fremont High, Castlemont High, Oakland High, Oakland Tech, King Estates Middle School and other schools.

On September 21, students and teachers from Oakland held a press conference. Students from Castlemont High described the importance of Mumia's case--and said they too faced police brutality. Teacher Bob Mandel said that 20 California public school districts now discuss Mumia in class. The Bay Area's major papers reported on these activities--the Oakland Tribune ran the headline: "Abu-Jamal Case Back on Front Burner." Teach-ins were held at Boston's Belmont High School and New Vista High School in Boulder, Colorado.

Philippine students and other supporters of the Bayan Cultural Group organized a Sept. 21 solidarity night of 100 people in L.A. dedicated to Mumia Awareness Week.

Meanwhile in Honolulu, Refuse & Resist! reached thousands of people at the Big Mele punk music festival.

Into the Communities

"If we're going to win Mumia's freedom, it's going to take more than courts and more than law. It's going to take us. There have been lots of great victories won in this country and many of them have finally been realized in the courts, but only after tens of thousands of people took to the streets demanding justice."

James Lafferty, Executive Director
of the L.A. Chapter of the National
Lawyers Guild, Los Angeles, Sept. 25

"Just spending a year in County jail, seeing all the injustices, I know what Mumia's saying is true... This society is not just against one person. It's profit before people, so it's against everybody."

Young Black man from South Central L.A.

"You have to be a John Brown in spirit and in action because we are not going to allow them to take this brother from us."

Herman Ferguson, New Afrikan
Liberation Movement

"Things like this, to stop the execution of Mumia and to stop the execution of Cabrini Green, it's in common."

Ocirius, from Cabrini Green housing projects

Mumia supporters went deep into oppressed communities--into neighborhoods, housing projects, and shopping districts.

On Sept. 22, a march of youth, students and revolutionaries went through the Chicago's famous Cabrini Green projects. A correspondent describes how the march went from building to building--and suddenly interrupted police who were raiding a highrise. Cops doing their dirty moves--suddenly facing people marching their way with militant banners and signs. Our correspondent wrote: "This was something very new to some of the students who had come, but they recognized that these raids are almost everyday occurrences in CHA. The raids are all part of the same repressive system that is targeting Mumia, and that is trying to tear down people's homes and hearts."

On Sept. 25, over 160 people marched up and down the major Black shopping district along L.A.'s Crenshaw Boulevard--getting lots of support from the people who crammed the streets.

That same day, hundreds of people gathered in Harlem, launching a day-long march through Manhattan. In Boston, 100 people marched through the downtown shopping district.

In Oakland, an attention-getting 15-car caravan went out into Latino and Black communities. One participant wrote, "Everywhere the caravan went it got an enthusiastic response--with people running up to get flyers, honking their horns or throwing their fist in the air and shouting `Free Mumia!"'

Across the Bay, three car caravans moved through key proletarian and immigrant communities in San Francisco like the Mission District and Bayview--featuring speakers in English, Spanish and Cantonese. The night before, on Sept. 24, 300 packed into Mission Culture Center to discuss mobilizing for Mumia among gay and lesbian people.

In Cleveland, there were major efforts to reach out to the Black projects near the main Sept. 25 rally site--including two car caravans. Anti-Racist Action organized a successful car caravan in Baltimore.

Meanwhile, people were mobilizing in many smaller cities and rural areas: Louisville, Kentucky saw a downtown 24-hour-a-day Court House vigil every day of Mumia Awareness Week. The Maine Support Network for Mumia Abu-Jamal had a booth during the three days of Common Ground County Fair--where according to one correspondent, "the crowd was about as diverse as it gets in Maine." Pensacola, Florida saw a full week of activities. And 50 people marched through downtown Denver.

Families of the Stolen Lives

"We are the parents and other family members of people killed by police or racist mobs or railroaded to prison on false charges. Our experience has taught us some things about the criminal justice system in this country. We know that when the police confront young people of color at night on the streets of our cities, they often brutalize them and even kill them. We know that cops, district attorneys and judges often hide evidence of our children's innocence and use manufactured evidence to railroad them to jail...."We are well qualified to speak on the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal because his experience is the same as ours."

From a statement by many families
of those victimized by cops.

Families of police victims, like Nicholas Heyward Sr., Willie Horton Sr., Iris Baez, Margarita Rosario, Cornelius Hall and many, many others have endorsed this public statement calling for stopping the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal. It was read at many events for Mumia across the U.S.

In city after city, these family members played an important role in the Mumia Awareness Week--including in Chicago, where they were prominent at the citywide march on September 25.

People from FAMLE (Families against Murder by Law Enforcement) spoke at a trade union gathering at the San Francisco longshoremen's hall--including Teamster Danny Garcia, whose brother Mark Garcia was murdered by police.

The Power of Word and Pen

Writers, poets and hip-hop artists took their stand with Mumia. On Sept. 24, the international writers organization PEN organized a panel discussion on "Mumia and the Death Penalty." Seventy people came to hear journalists Emil Guillermo, Ishmael Reed, Kiilu Nyasha, Buddhist writer Melody Chavis, activist Jeff Mackler and others.

The Bay Area Chapter of the National Writers Union joined with Wanda Sabir of the Bayview newspaper and local Mumia coalition to host readings for Mumia at several sites throughout the Bay Area. There were readings at Café La Pena, the Black Repertory Group, East Oakland's Deja Brew and World Ground coffeehouses, and poet Jack Foley dedicated his KPFA readings to Mumia. On Sept. 24, about 60 people gathered for hip hop and spoken word at Revolution Books in Berkeley.

A petition is circulating among writers and poets in the Bay Area demanding a new trial for Mumia. It is sponsored by the National Writers Union, Bay Area, Media Alliance, PEN Oakland, Pacific News Service, Independent Press Association, PEN American Center, and International Black Writers. This petition has already attracted hundreds of signatories including: Alice Walker, Isabel Allende, Ben Bagdakian, Adrienne Rich, Ishmael Reed, Tim Redmond, Lawrence Ferlingetti, Bill Wong, Tim Graham, Chrystos, Maxine Hong Kingston, Diane di Prima, Chinosole, Elizabeth Martinez, Gary Snyder, Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz, Alejandro Murguia, Tillie Olsen, Norman Soloman, Cecile Pineda, Herbert Apthecker, Barbara Kingsolver, Frances Beal, Robert Allen, Noelle Hanrahan, Peter Coyote, Ron Takaki, Lucy Jane Bledsoe, Piri Thomas, Jennifer Harbury, Abena Songbird, Reese Erlich, Joyce Jenkins, Julia Sudbury, Elaine H. Kim, Peter Phillips.

In South Africa, 437 delegates signed a petition of support for Mumia Abu-Jamal at the conference of Azanian Peoples Organization (AZAPO) and its allied organizations.

Masses in the Media

Mumia made it into prime time at least once during Awareness Week--when comedian Chris Rock mentioned him during a skit.

Though the white-out remained intense and outrageous at the national level, there were many times when the struggle of people broke into the local airwaves and newspapers including local TV news shows in New York, Philadelphia, Montreal, San Diego, and Los Angeles. Mumia's events were covered in several major city newspapers, including the San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner.

The Black press and radio talk shows gave widespread coverage. New York's Daily Challenge had a full front page on Awareness Week. Pacifica radio stations reported and participated extensively, and so did many college newspapers and radio stations.

On October 3, "Free Mumia" appeared in the Boondocks Sunday comic strip.

Religious Support

"This society needs Mumia. We need his voice of clarity. We need his critical judgment. We need his honesty. We need the truth in journalism that he represents. And it is precisely because he is a voice of justice, a voice of clarity, represents a critical examination of the society for all of the injustices in it that he's attempting to be silenced."

Rev. Lucius Walker, Interreligious Foundation
for Community Organization, Pastors for Peace

In Chicago, Sept. 22, 20 clergy representing all major religions gathered for an interfaith prayer breakfast--to discuss Mumia's case and hear Standish Willis of the National Conference of Black Lawyers.

Black churches in Oakland and other places participated in activities for Mumia on Sunday, September 19.

In San Francisco a meditation sitting was held for Mumia in Golden Gate Park by the Buddhist Peace Fellowship of Marin.

Philadelphia's American Friends Service Committee has sent a mailing to pastors and congregations supporting Mumia's case and held a day-long video showing against the death penalty on September 25.

Trade Union Support

Sixty people attended a forum on "Labor's Fight to Free Mumia" at the West Coast longshoremen hall (ILWU) in San Francisco. Members of Local 214, San Francisco Letter Carriers, Amalgamated Transit Union #1574, Oakland Education Association and Carpenters Union #713 expressed support for Mumia. Meanwhile, Jack Heyman of the ILWU joined with Fred Glass from the California Federation of Teachers to support the Oakland student-teacher press conference for Mumia.

On Sept. 23, the 1199 hospital workers union hosted a video showing of A Case for Reasonable Doubt at their New York headquarters.


"The stakes are sky high in the battle to stop the authorities from using their legal system to murder Mumia. The capitalists who rule over us have made their determination to execute Mumia crystal clear. They bribed and intimidated witnesses to railroad him onto death row 17 years ago. They've ignored evidence and witnesses his defense has brought out into the light of day. They concocted two phony confessions. They told the Black United Fund of Pennsylvania, a Black charitable organization, `Step back from this case, or we'll crush you!' They got their Fraternal Order of Pigs in Philly drawing up a hit list of artists and others who've supported Mumia's case and threatening them with boycotts and other shit.

If we don't step up our efforts to do what's needed to beat back their murderous move on our brother Mumia, we'll lose a very precious life and a very powerful voice against injustice. Think of what a heavy blow that would be--how it would weigh on the many people who've drawn hope from Mumia's words and his example of uncompromising resistance. Think of how that would impact the youth, the new generation of fighters, many of whom were inspired to join the struggle by Mumia. We've got to escalate the struggle to stop their attempt to execute him."

Carl Dix, RCP National Spokesperson

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