A New Year in the Fight to Save
the Live of Mumia Abu-Jamal
Revolutionary Worker #1036, December 26, 1999
As we head into the new century, our brother Mumia Abu-Jamal must spend yet another New Year's Day on death row. Separated from friends, family, and the people by the cold fortress walls of a maximum security prison. Target of a vicious hate campaign by a nationwide network of cops. Ruthlessly attacked by major establishment media. Threatened with possible execution at the hands of the state.
It is a profound injustice that Mumia is on death row.
From the days when he was a teenager and a leader in the Black Panther Party, Mumia has dedicated his life to the cause of the people. In the 1970s Mumia worked as a radio journalist, exposing the systematic brutality of the Philadelphia police. He was known in the streets of Philadelphia as the "Voice of the Voiceless"--and he was hated by the police and authorities.
In 1982, Mumia was falsely convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of a white cop. This was a trial presided over by a notoriously pro-police judge who has sent more people to death row than any sitting judge in the U.S. The prosecutor dismissed 11 qualified African-Americans during jury selection. Witnesses were threatened and coerced into giving false testimony against Mumia. The prosecutor brought up Mumia's political activity and revolutionary beliefs to argue for the death penalty.
What kind of a system would torment and brutalize this courageous brother for so many years--and refuse to deliver justice in the face of a mountain of evidence proving his innocence? It's a hateful system that doesn't care a damn about truth or justice.
The fight to free Mumia Abu-Jamal is now at a critical and decisive juncture. Will the powers that rule America move ahead with their plans to execute Mumia? Or can the people force the government to back off their plans against Mumia--and mark the dawn of the 21st century with a new victory that will have far-reaching impact? This is the question of the hour.
As author Alice Walker wrote: "We are all about to be launched into a new century whose benchmark appears already to be disruption, pain and acute anxiety about the trustworthiness of leaders and of life itself. We are about to leave everything that has been familiar to us, and to go off into the unknown.
"Who do we want to go with us? The so-called wise ones who believe you can stop a war by dropping a bomb?
"Or do we want, instead, to be holding the hand of our brother who clearly loves us, Mumia Abu-Jamal?
"We demand the opportunity to walk into the future with this man."
High Stakes of the Battle
Why are the powers-that-be putting so much into carrying through the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal? And what is at stake for the people in stopping this execution?
Mumia is a living link between the spirit of the 1960s and the generation coming up today. Youth of different classes and all nationalities increasingly see and cherish Mumia as someone who consistently questions, exposes and resists the reactionary status quo--and who has never given up or lost faith in the people, even in the face of death.
Mumia is not only a living reminder of the corruption and racism of this country's judicial system--he is one of its most incisive critics. For millions of people worldwide, Mumia's case represents the barbarism of a country that dares to promote itself as the "champion of human rights."
Mumia upholds the right of people to fundamentally overturn this system and put a more just system in its place. His refusal to back down from this stand--despite all that his enemies have thrown at him--inspires the people in their resistance against the system.
The story of Mumia is much more than the story of injustice against one man. The power structure's attempt to execute Mumia connects with a larger ruling class agenda directed against Black people. Deep changes in the U.S. and global economy have caused severe political and social dislocations--with a potential for great upheaval. As one part of their answer to this, the power structure is buttressing the institutions of white supremacy and national oppression--and refitting them for the "new millennium."
A stark example of this racist agenda is the criminalization of an entire generation of young Black men. We've also witnessed the wholesale reversal of the anti-discrimination reforms of the 1960s and '70s--while former welfare recipients are forced into low-wage dead-end jobs in the underside of the U.S. economic "boom."
Mumia's case has developed into a flash point and an extreme concentration of what tens of millions of people of color face every day because of this agenda. The outrageous railroad of Mumia points to how millions of Black people are routinely abused and mistreated--by the police, the courts, the government, the prisons and the media.
What would happen if the execution of Mumia is not stopped? The rulers will claim, with new boldness, that it is legally and morally acceptable to execute a Black revolutionary--despite the blatant racism and injustice of the court proceedings. It would set a dangerous precedent for further political persecution of revolutionaries, including through the use of the death penalty.
Such an execution would give a new boost to the government's death penalty in general--at a time when dozens of people have been rescued from death row in recent years after proof of their unjust convictions came out. The rulers will turn Mumia's execution into a celebration of their power to take revenge on any Black person who defies the first line of defense of their white supremacist system--the police.
What effect would such an execution have on the millions of Black youth and youth of other nationalities? What message would this send them about their futures and their fates? What would it say to a young person who wants to serve the people, or become a journalist to expose poverty and discrimination, or speak out against abuse and injustice?
The answer is clear. We cannot allow the power structure to send out such a message. We cannot allow them to take this precious brother away from us.
Let's flip the script for a moment--and imagine what it would mean if the people did win the battle to free Mumia! Think of the tremendously empowering impact of such a victory on people here in the U.S. and worldwide. Imagine how it would strengthen the unity of the people--and build our resistance against the oppressors.
The stakes of this battle are extremely high for everyone who wants to end the discrimination and oppression of Black people--for all who are concerned with justice.
We MUST prevent the execution of Mumia!
Crucial Months Ahead in the Battle
A new letter--signed by key figures in the movement to save Mumia--discusses the period ahead in this fight:
"The new millennium will usher in some CRUCIAL MONTHS IN THE BATTLE TO SAVE MUMIA ABU-JAMAL. Now more than ever, our energies and efforts in organizing for him must be both more intense and more carefully implemented. The early months of 2000 are those in which we must build and mobilize public expression, during the run-up to a critical ruling by the Federal District Court that may happen as early as March.
"This court ruling, by Federal District Judge William H. Yohn, Jr., may determine whether or not Mumia receives an `evidentiary hearing' to reopen the factual record in his case, or whether all future appeals will be based on the court record of the `hanging judge' Albert Sabo. Judge Sabo found every prosecution witness to be truthful, found every defense witness to be untruthful, and barred the admission of witnesses and documents critical to Mumia's defense.
"THE EVIDENCE MUST BE HEARD. Judge Yohn must now decide whether or not to exercise his power to review fully all aspects of State court rulings and findings of fact. Yohn has the Constitutional power to do this, even with the constraints imposed on Federal courts by the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. This ruling is crucial, because it determines whether the evidence barred by Pennsylvania courts will ever be heard, and it will determine what record of the facts in this case will be used during all future Federal appeals. If Sabo's record is allowed to stand, then there is no such thing as justice in the United States..."
In this new year, the people face a great challenge. The power structure has made clear their murderous intentions--to silence Mumia's strong voice and deliver a message of intimidation to many others.
The people must step up to this challenge with an increasingly powerful movement--with a new and higher level of broadness, diversity and determination. Millions must ask themselves: "Can I stand by while the government carries out a political execution of a Black revolutionary?" The demand to "Stop the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal!" needs to become such a dividing line and benchmark of social justice throughout society that the enemy is forced to back off their plans.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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