May 13: San Franciso/Chicago

Into the Streets for Mumia

Revolutionary Worker #1056, May 28, 2000

"Police! Police! Whazzup! Whazzup! You kill Mumia you get fucked up."

march chant

May 13th. Men and women, Black, white, Latino, and Asian; young and old; new and veteran activists. In Chicago, people gave the authorities a taste of what to expect if they take Mumia's life.

The protest began with a very determined rally of 250 in the shadow of a downtown federal building and ended only after protesters blockaded Lake Shore Drive--the main and busiest road of traffic along the lakefront--for nearly 30 minutes, backing up traffic for miles.

There was a heavy police presence all day. As marchers made their way through the downtown shopping district, they were "escorted" by a wall of police on foot, on horse and on bike.

Growing tension between cops and protesters erupted into open confrontation after protesters filled a side street off of the main shopping area. Police attempted to herd marchers back to the sidewalks using their horses. One young man was nearly hoisted up by a cop on horseback. Another was sent flying down the street as a cop repeatedly rammed him with his horse. People were being grabbed, shoved by police, and knocked over by horses. One woman had her tooth chipped after a cop threw a newspaper box into her head. In response garbage and other items flew through the air at the police, and newspaper boxes ended up in the street.

As police continued to bring in reserves, protesters continued to march, this time heading to the lakefront area. At one point the line of marchers were boxed in on both sides by almost an equal number of police. But people were not cowed--they were on a mission for Mumia. The march arrived at Lake Shore Drive, a busy parkway that runs along the east side of Chicago, and stopped--right in the middle of the street. For 20 to 30 minutes traffic ground to a halt, backing up at least a mile or more in either direction. Again police tried to intimidate people. An older woman was knocked to the ground when police rode a horse through the crowd. A young man was hit by another cop. Police brought in enough reserves to match demonstrators one to one. A dozen people were arrested.

The determination of the crowd sent a clear message to the powers-that-be. Stan Willis, from the Chicago chapter of the National Conference of Black Lawyers and the African-American Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal and Aaron Patterson, told the crowd, "When they sit down in their dark rooms, smoke filled or not, they must be able to calculate the mass showing in Chicago, and in Detroit, and in Los Angeles, and in Philadelphia and all over this country, and in Berlin and in South Africa and all over the world. And they must think, maybe we better let this one go, because we don't know what they might do."


In San Francisco people gathered downtown as hundreds of youth pounded out a rhythm of resistance--with the Watts Drum Corps up from L.A. in the center of it all. Youth were there to rebel against the whole way the system criminalizes them and to stand with a man who they see as a hero to their generation.

Longshoremen lined up with their banner, next to anti-WTO protesters who drove down from Seattle. High school students from ghetto schools in Watts and Oakland stepped together with college students from UC Berkeley and UCLA.

As the march moved down Market Street, it filled eight blocks, stopping traffic. By the time it reached San Francisco's Civic Center, there was a crowd of 4,000 people.

A contingent of youth electrified the whole march, organized by the Youth/Student Network of the October 22nd Coalition Against Police Brutality, the Youth Network of Refuse & Resist, and the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade. Drumming, dancing, and chanting, the youth stopped in the middle of Market Street, opening up a block-long space in front of them, and then sprinted for a block, chanting, "We're fired up, ain't takin' no more!" and "Mumia's fearless, so are we. We won't stop until he's free!"

For some youth, including a crew from an Oakland high school, this was their first protest ever and they were excited to see such a diverse turnout for Mumia. Others had gotten active during the fight against California's anti-youth Prop 21, or the anti-WTO (World Trade Organization) protests in Seattle.

Longshoremen who had shut down the West Coast ports last year in support of Mumia were joined by a delegation of dockworkers from South Carolina who were viciously attacked by 600 police during a recent strike. Their union has been part of the fight against the confederate flag in South Carolina.

Lining one side of the rally, the Stolen Lives wall--documenting those killed by police and other law enforcement officials--stretched for hundreds of yards and had a powerful impact on people.

The SF march and rally--organized by the Bay Area Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, with the demands, "New Trial For Mumia Abu-Jamal!" and "Stop The Execution!"--reflected the broad spectrum of people who for many different reasons are not willing to let the system murder and silence Mumia.

A representative of Amnesty International denounced the "systematic discrimination against people of color in every aspect of the (legal) process including jury selection," and how "innocent people have often been sentenced to death." He pointed out that close to 90 prisoners have been released from death row in the U.S. since 1973 because they were found innocent of the crimes for which they were convicted. Amnesty takes no position on Mumia's guilt or innocence, but is "convinced that the trial does not meet even minimal legal standards that are accepted by the international community, by treaties that we and most other countries have signed." AI is demanding a new trial for Mumia and an end to the death penalty.

San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Tom Amiano attended the rally and Bay Area Congresswoman Barbara Lee sent a statement to the rally in support of a new trial for Mumia, "that allows comprehensive witness testimony and physical evidence that has not been permitted in previous trials."

Hip hop artists Blackalicious and Michael Franti performed, getting people up on their feet. Blackalicious contributed to the just released "Unbound CD"--which features some of the top spoken word and hip hop artists in the country performing pieces inspired by Mumia and focusing on how the system criminalizes youth. Chief Xcel from Blackalicious told the RW after their set, "We feel like we got a God-given gift and a purpose, to share music with people around the world. And if that can, in any way, help progress anybody's situation, whether it's one person or whether it's the masses of the people, we're gonna do it. We got a gift, and to whom much is given, much is expected, you know what I'm saying?"

Clark Kissinger, founding member of Refuse & Resist and writer for the RW, was unable to attend the rally due to a draconian court order restricting him to New York (see article on page 10). But he sent a statement, emphasizing how the battle for Mumia is now at a decisive moment and calling on people to step up the struggle:

"Soon Mumia will be appearing in Federal District Court. This will be a very important event in this battle. If we lose here, it will be much more difficult in the legal arena... First, we must send out immediate notification when the court date is announced. Second, every area must call an emergency, citywide mobilizing meeting two days after the announcement is made. Third, after the emergency meeting, there should be a day of mass leafletting. Fourth, stand with Mumia by coming out the day he appears in Federal District Court...and fifth, there is a need for volunteers to go to Philadelphia as soon as the announcement is made. On that first day in court, we want them to see the full breadth of what they are going up against. The evidence barred from the Pennsylvania courts must now be heard!"


In addition to the May 13 demonstration, there have been several other significant Mumia events this month in the SF Bay Area. Mumia was a prominent theme at the Children of Resistance program in Berkeley on April 29 that drew 3,000 people. A youth workshop on Mumia and police brutality put on by the October 22nd Coalition was one of the best attended events at the Oakland, May 6 "Upset the Setup" conference (held to sum up the fight against Prop 21 and make plans to further oppose the war on youth). On May 11, 75 people packed into Revolution Books to celebrate the release of Mumia's new book All Things Censored, and to hear from the book's editor Noelle Hanrahan, along with spoken word, poetry, and readings from Mumia's books.

On May 12, 100 union members attended a Labor for Mumia conference where plans were made to take the fight for Mumia into more unions. And many students are organizing to bring the fight to free Mumia to the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles in August, including a demonstration for Mumia on August 13.

The Bay Area Mobilization for Mumia has called for a rally at the Federal Courthouse in San Francisco the day Mumia appears in court, and Refuse & Resist! has called for people to mobilize for canvassing at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland the day after there is an announcement of when Mumia will appear in court.

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