C. Clark Kissinger Threatened with Jail for
Giving Speech in Support of Mumia
Revolutionary Worker #1072, October 1, 2000
September 2000. C. Clark Kissinger, a leading organizer in the fight to stop the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal and an RW correspondent, is now being threatened with jail time for giving a speech during a protest at the Republican National Convention.
August 1 was an intense day of protest at the RNC, as thousands of determined demonstrators faced thousands of police in the streets of Philadelphia. Key themes for the day were resistance to the death penalty, the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal, police brutality, and the injustices of the prison system. More than 350 people were arrested-many subjected to brutal conditions by their jailers.
In violation of a probation order restricting him to the Eastern District of New York, Clark Kissinger spoke at the August 1 rally against the death penalty and in support of Mumia Abu-Jamal in downtown Philadelphia. It was where Clark belonged that day, and he had every right to be there. As protesters swirled from street confrontations in and out of the crowd at the rally, Clark spoke about the stakes for the people in stopping the execution of Mumia:
"Why do they have to bring out this intimidation, the mounted police, the helicopters, the clubs? Why do they have to stage boycotts of performers who come out and help Mumia? Why are we constantly subjected to these kinds of threats? Are they afraid that the people will actually learn what happened in Mumia's trial? Are they afraid that people will learn what was said between the judge and the lawyers in the secret meeting in the judge's chambers to which Mumia was not invited? Are they afraid that people will learn how witnesses changed their stories and lies? Are they afraid that people will learn about the phony confession story? Are they afraid that people will learn what Mumia actually stands for? And are they afraid that people will see in Mumia a champion of the oppressed as well as a victim of the system? Do they worry that their whole reactionary agenda may be put at stake? Yes, I think they do worry about that....
"Dare to struggle, dare to win! We have defended Mumia and we have learned from him. We do not intend to let the executioner's hand take him from us. As far as we are concerned, this is one execution that will not happen. We are going to fight this fight to win, and unite with people of all different viewpoints from all different communities, expanding our broadness, our diversity and our determination. We are going to continue to escalate this struggle using whatever means is necessary and needed to do that. And we vow to make every outrage they throw at us yet another nail in the coffin of their vicious system."
On August 1, the thousands of police outside the political conventions in Philly and Los Angeles-intimidating, arresting and brutalizing protesters-clarified for a new generation just what U.S. democracy is really about.
And now Clark Kissinger has been ordered to appear in federal court in Philadelphia to answer charges of probation violation -charges that could result in jail time-for the crime of giving a political speech during convention week.
From the beginning, the sole purpose of the probation restrictions put on Kissinger and six other "Liberty Bell defendants" has been to attempt to silence them and restrict their political activity. In July 1999, 96 protesters were arrested at the Liberty Bell and given summonses by Park Rangers for "failing to obey a lawful order." But when Kissinger and six others, including Mumia's literary agent Fran Goldin, refused to plead guilty and demanded their right to a trial, the presiding magistrate Judge Arnold Rapoport denied them a trial and sentenced them to one year of supervised probation.
The outrageous conditions of probation told a story of political persecution: they had to surrender their passports; they were forbidden from associating with felons, which meant that Clark and Fran were not allowed to see Mumia; they were not allowed to travel outside their federal court district without the permission of a probation officer for a full year; they were ordered to list all persons they were in contact with who have been convicted of a crime, to turn in detailed financial records, and to submit to intrusive visits by probation officers.
Clark's lawyer, Ron Kuby, pointed out: "The federal magistrate's imposition of highly restrictive conditions of probation, unprecedented in a case of this type, are an attempt to prevent Mr. Kissinger from engaging in lawful, constitutionally protected activity. For years, Mr. Kissinger has traveled the country organizing support for Mumia Abu-Jamal. The Court's restrictions upon Mr. Kissinger's travel and prohibition on association with Mr. Abu-Jamal, if adhered to, would seriously hamper these efforts. In addition, the Court's requirement that Mr. Kissinger disclose the names and details of all organizations to which he belongs is designed to chill his exercise of the First Amendment right to freedom of association."
From the beginning Clark has resisted these extreme and unjust conditions of probation, refusing to turn over lists of his financial transactions and political contacts-and refusing to stop corresponding with Mumia or to stop building the movement to save his life. An appeal has been filed in federal court. And hundreds have signed a statement protesting this outrageous political persecution.
"What they're doing to us is what they did in South Africa during the apartheid regime, where they 'banned' people to stay in their village, not allowed to travel anywhere to have connections with the political movement. They're trying to create banned people here, and we're refusing to be banned," Kissinger told supporters who joined him at the probation office when he refused to turn over financial records in July of this year.
For all those who know the history of Mumia's case, the actions of the federal magistrate in this case are part of a whole pattern of political persecution in Philadelphia against Black revolutionaries -from the police attacks on the Black Panthers to the murderous assaults on the MOVE organization to the railroad of Mumia. And on every level city officials, prosecutors and judges have turned out to be up to their ears in the persecution and railroad of Mumia and the blood of MOVE members. Even the judge who is scheduled to hear Kissinger's appeal turns out to be the only member of a city commission that reviewed the 1985 bombing of the MOVE house who found no fault with the murderous actions of the police that day.
The issue of the rights of revolutionaries to speak their views has been at the heart of Mumia's case in many ways-from the attempts to silence Mumia's revolutionary journalism to the imposition of the death penalty based on a statement made by Mumia when he was a member of the Black Panther Party that "political power grows out of the barrel of gun." The police-state atmosphere at the conventions and the political persecution of activists for Mumia have only underlined that reality.
Now, for speaking out on Mumia's behalf, Kissinger has been ordered to appear in federal court in Philadelphia to answer charges of probation violation "which may warrant revocation of your probation."
The legal Catch-22's in this situation are mind-boggling. First the judge denied Clark a jury trial-on the grounds that the prosecutor said that he would not ask for jail time. And now the judge can revoke probation and sentence Clark to jail time for the crime of giving a political speech!
Furthermore, the document sent to Clark clearly indicates that the political nature of his request to travel was an issue and that the judge himself denied Clark's right to speak and report.
The document says: "On July 25, 2000, the defendant formally requested permission to travel to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from July 31, 2000, through August 1, 2000. The purpose of the trip was to speak at a rally opposing the death penalty, the pending execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal, and to work as a journalist reporting events at the Republican National Convention. USPO Eric Macolino forwarded a copy of the defendant's request to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The defendant was told that his request for travel was pending judicial approval and he was not to travel until permission was granted."
What the document fails to disclose is that every time Clark has asked for permission to travel for family reasons, permission has been granted. But every time Clark has asked to travel to attend a meeting for Mumia or to speak on Mumia's behalf, permission has been denied.
So it is clear that the judge's denial of permission to travel to speak at the RNC protests was politically motivated-and in clear violation of Clark's political rights.
Clark's hearing will be held on December 6--before Judge Arnold C. Rapoport of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania-in the same federal court building where Mumia's crucial habeas corpus appeal will be held. As the statement of support for Clark pointed out: "The progressive forces in this country cannot surrender the right to a trial, nor can we tolerate the attempt of the government to 'ground' those working for Mumia." Nor can we tolerate the jailing of revolutionaries for political speech.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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