Revolutionary Journalists Must Not Be Jailed
Stop the Persecution of C. Clark Kissinger:
A Leader in the Battle to Stop the Execution of Mumia
Revolutionary Worker #1084, December 24, 2000, posted at http://rwor.org
"There is a trail of disruption wherever your client goes."
Judge Rapoport to C. Clark Kissinger's defense attorneys during
Dec. 6 hearing in Philadelphia
"Over the last several years I've come to think of Clark as the 'Secretary of the Mumia movement.' His work has been essential to its massive growth. The conditions of Clark's probation make clear that those in power are also aware of his central role in this vitally important struggle."
Robert Meeropol, son of Julius and
Ethel Rosenberg, in a message
of support for C. Clark Kissinger
As we go to press, revolutionary journalist C. Clark Kissinger is behind bars at the Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center in New York. He was sentenced to a 90-day prison term by a federal court in Philadelphia--for the "crime" of delivering a political speech during a protest against the Republican National Convention.
Earlier this year, this system's courts had imposed outrageous probation terms on Clark Kissinger because of his participation in the July 1999 protest at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia in support of political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal. The probation terms forbid him to travel outside the New York City area without official permission. This and other conditions placed on Clark were aimed against the movement to stop the execution of Mumia. Clark, a contributing writer to the Revolutionary Worker and a founding member of the organization Refuse & Resist!, is a leading organizer in the Mumia movement. Each time Clark asked the probation officer for permission to travel to speak in support of Mumia, he was denied permission.
August 1 was an intense day of resistance in Philadelphia. Thousands of people protested the RNC, confronted the police in the streets, and voiced their opposition to the death penalty, the execution of Mumia, police brutality, and the unjust prison system. At the protest rally outside the RNC, Clark made a surprise appearance in defiance of the government's attempt to silence him.
The government has now jailed Clark Kissinger for the speech he made that day--a political speech at a rally that had a legal permit. The jailing of Clark is a dangerous attack on the growing movement to save Mumia's life. And this case has serious implications for everyone who believes the government should not be allowed to outlaw political protest and speech.
What went on at the December 6 federal court hearing makes it clear that the persecution of Clark is an attempt by the government to set a dangerous precedent--to criminalize political speech and protest. The judge and prosecutor repeatedly claimed that the only issue involved in the government's case against Clark was whether he "violated parole." But the very first words out of the prosecutor's mouth was a quote from Clark's August 1 speech. The prosecution argued that Clark's speech was "not lawful speech." The prosecutor openly talked about punishing Clark in order to stop him from carrying out further protests. And the prosecutor raised the concept of "general deterrence"--the idea that punishing Clark would also deter others from taking political action. (For a fuller account, see article by RW reporter Debbie Lang in last week's issue or online at rwor.org.)
In contrast, Clark went straight to the core of the matter: "What's really involved in this case is the attempt to kill Mumia.... General deterrence is involved here. The government explicitly saw grounding me as one way to put a brake on a political movement the government does not like."
Clark spoke about his principled stand and sense of revolutionary responsibility that led to the decision to speak out at the RNC protest: "A new generation [came to protest in Philadelphia]. Could I have done anything less? Could I have remained at home when they were willing to put themselves on the line?... The eyes of the world were on Philadelphia."
In many ways, the issue of the right of revolutionaries to express their political views has been at the heart of Mumia's case. Mumia was the target of FBI surveillance and government persecution from the days when he was a teenage revolutionary and the minister of information for the Black Panther Party in Philadelphia. In 1981--when Mumia was framed for the killing of a Philly police officer--he was known to the authorities as a long-time critic of police brutality and a revolutionary journalist who had served as the president of the National Association of Black Journalists in Philadelphia. During Mumia's trial, the prosecution based its argument for the imposition of the death penalty on a statement Mumia made as a Black Panther. In prison, Mumia has fought against repeated attempts by the authorities and the Fraternal Order of Police to censor his political writings and speech.
Now, the unjust jailing of Clark Kissinger brings home the crucial connection between the fight for Mumia and the right of revolutionaries to speak their views.
Clark Kissinger has been a revolutionary activist since the 1960s--a "rebel without a pause," in his own words. In recent years, he has dedicated himself wholeheartedly to the movement to stop the execution of Mumia. As Carl Dix, national spokesperson for RCP,USA, points out: "Clark's revolutionary Maoist convictions have led him to see the necessity to build a movement in support of Mumia that is broad, diverse and determined. Clark has fought to involve the broadest sections of the people in this fight for justice.... Clark's work is an important part of why this movement has been able to involve and unleash groups and individuals from many different viewpoints and backgrounds."
Clark has brought his revolutionary perspective and analysis to the movement--the understanding that the case of Mumia brings people face to face with some hard realities about this system: that there is no justice in this society; that the police and the courts are brutal instruments of a class society that must keep Blacks and other oppressed people down in order to function; that the death penalty under this system serves the dictatorship of a class of global exploiters.
In a speech at the Emergency National Conference to Save Mumia in February of this year, Clark pointed out: "What will happen if the execution of Mumia is not stopped? Won't those who rule claim with new brazenness that it is legally and morally acceptable to execute a Black revolutionary--despite the blatant racism and injustice of his court proceedings? Do we really want to set that dangerous precedent, including the use of the death penalty against those who would dissent and defy? Wouldn't such an execution give a big boost to the government's death penalty policy--at a time when dozens of people have been rescued from death row in recent years after proof of their unjust convictions came out? Wouldn't the government turn Mumia's execution into an ugly celebration of their power to take revenge on any Black person who defies the police--the first line of defense for their white supremacist system? And what effect would such an execution have on millions of Black youth and youth of other nationalities? What would it say to the next young Black writer who aspires to be the voice of the voiceless?"
The movement to win justice for Mumia is now at a critical time. An announcement of an important hearing in federal district court could come at any time. Mumia, who is on death row under the shadow of a temporarily stayed death warrant, will be at the hearing. The Pennsylvania courts have refused to allow new evidence that shows Mumia was unjustly convicted and sentenced to death. The federal district court is the only place where all that new evidence can be admitted into the record and therefore be available for examination in higher appeals.
Mumia's supporters are responding to these high stakes by stepping up efforts to build the kind of movement that is needed to win justice--a movement that is broad, diverse and determined. In the infamous August 1 speech, Clark expressed the firm resolve of the movement: "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 are 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."
This kind of movement is just what the government is attempting to derail. The power structure is intent on silencing Mumia's voice by going forward with the railroad and execution. To do this, they feel the need to undercut the ability of the movement to mobilize a powerful outpouring of support for Mumia as the federal court hearing looms on the horizon. And they have now moved to snatch a key leader in the movement from the streets at this important juncture.
The jailing of Clark must be met with a major political response--this serious attack by the government must be resisted and defeated. The people need this revolutionary brother on the streets, helping to build the kind of movement that can defeat the government's moves to execute Mumia. Everyone with a sense of justice must speak out against this outrage--without serious resistance, the government might get away with setting a very dangerous precedent for criminalizing political speech and protest.
We must take on the attack on Clark Kissinger so that it backfires on the government and further strengthens the movement to win justice for Mumia. We must make this outrage the enemy has thrown at the people "yet another nail in the coffin of their vicious system."
To send letters to Clark Kissinger, write to this address: Charles Clark Kissinger #53094-066, Metropolitan Detention Center, 80 29th St., Brooklyn, NY 11232.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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