The Speech that Landed C. Clark Kissinger in Jail

Philadelphia August 1: Up Against the Executioner's Ball

Revolutionary Worker #1086, January 14, 2001, posted at

Revolutionary journalist C. Clark Kissinger continues to be held behind bars at a federal prison in Brooklyn--a target of the government's political persecution.

Clark is a contributing writer to the Revolutionary Worker, a founding member of the organization Refuse & Resist!, and a leading organizer in the movement to stop the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal. Early last year, the system's courts imposed outrageous probation terms on Clark because of his participation in the July 1999 protest in support of Mumia at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. Clark was forbidden to travel outside the New York City area without official permission. On August 1, 2000, Clark appeared at the protest outside the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia to speak to the people in the streets. For making this speech, Clark was charged with violating the probation terms, and the government brought him into court once again. On December 6, a federal judge sentenced Clark to 90 days in jail.

The judge and the prosecutor insisted that the jailing of Clark Kissinger was "not political." But the very first words out of the prosecutor's mouth at the Dec. 6 hearing was a quote from Clark's August 1 speech. The prosecutor said that the speech--given at a rally with a legal permit--was "not lawful speech." The prosecutor openly talked about punishing Clark in order to prevent him from further acts of protest--and to deter others from taking political action.

The jailing of Clark Kissinger must be met with a major political response, so that this attack backfires on the government. The people need this revolutionary brother back on the streets, helping to build the kind of movement that can defeat the power structure's moves to execute Mumia. Everyone with a sense of justice must speak out against this outrage--the government cannot be allowed to set a very dangerous precedent for criminalizing political speech and protest.

The following is the speech that C. Clark Kissinger gave in Philadelphia on August 1, 2000--the speech that landed him in jail.

Okay! We're having one great time today in Philadelphia, aren't we? [Audience shouts Yeah!] They said we couldn't shut down their pigsty and we're doing it. Well, why are we here today? We're here today because this is the greatest collection of mass murderers that has been assembled in this country in decades. If you take a look, you'll see that this is truly why we have called it the "Executioners' Ball." If you added together alone the death rows of Pennsylvania and the two Bush brothers of Florida and Texas, those three states alone make up 30% of the entire death rows of United States of America.

This convention, as all of you know, is a sham. Nothing is being decided here. The dollars voted years and months ago to decide who the nominee would be. There's nothing going on here but four days of drinking and whoring. [Laughter, applause] And the sham that is this convention precedes the sham in November where the dollars will also vote ahead of time and decide who will be the imperial ruler of this country for the next four years. Fuck their election! [Applause]

There's only one purpose to this whole reactionary charade, and that is to give some semblance of endorsement to their entire reactionary program, what we in R&R call the politics of cruelty. And its other purpose, of course, is to have a coronation for that scumbag George W. Bush.

And who is George W. Bush? George W. Bush is a smirking frat rat son of a former head of the CIA who went on to become a speculator oil man, and from there went on to be a blood-stained executioner, and now wants to be the ruler of the world.

This serial killer has now killed 135 people. That is approximately one person every other week for the entire tenure of his governorship of Texas. Do you realize that the state of Texas has executed more people than any other jurisdiction in the Western world? The Texas death row is 40% Black and 22% Latino. And then George W. Bush makes the ridiculous claim that no one who is innocent has ever been executed on his watch. Bullshit!

The Chicago Tribune looked into the hundreds of people who have been executed and examined each of their cases, and what did they find? They found that there were 40 cases in which there was one witness or no witness at all. They found 33 cases where the lawyer was subsequently disbarred or disciplined. They found 23 cases based on jailhouse snitches. And they found 23 cases based solely on the visual examination of hair fibers, not even on DNA.

I want to give you two examples that will show you the nature of the Texas death row.

The first of these is a man named Cesar Fierro. Cesar Fierro was arrested in 1979, five months after the killing of a cab driver. There were two other men already arrested for that crime and witnesses had testified to their guilt. But because a 16-year-old youth told the prosecutor that Fierro had done it, he was arrested. But they said he made a confession. Yes, he did make a confession. Do you know why he made that confession? Because the police put him on the telephone with the police in Juarez, Mexico. The Mexican police told him that they were holding his parents and that if he didn't confess to whatever the Texas police wanted, his parents were going to be tortured. He then confessed. Yes, he did. Later, a court was to acknowledge that his rights had not been protected and that he was, in fact, coerced. The prosecutor acknowledged that he was not guilty. But what did that court in Texas do? They voted 5 to 4 not to give him a new trial! So he sits on death row today. Has George Bush ever once said, "This is a miscarriage of justice and we need to set this man free?" No. Who did he aid? He commuted the sentence of a man named Henry Lee Lucas. And who is Henry Lee Lucas? Henry Lee Lucas is a white serial killer, who in 1960 killed his mother, in 1982 killed and dismembered his girlfriend, in 1984 was convicted of killing another woman in Texas and then confessed to killing another 60 women. On June 29, 1998, Bush commuted Lucas' sentence to life in prison. This is the only commutation ever done by George Bush of a death sentence, and it was a white serial killer. I can only presume that George W. Bush saw in this serial killer a kindred spirit.

And are the Democrats one whit better in all of this? Hell no! Look right over there at Lynn Abraham's office, the Queen of Death in Philadelphia. In 1992 what did President Clinton do when he was running for office? He rushed back to Arkansas to sign the death warrant for Ricky Ray Rector, so he could show how tough he was on crime. In 1996, the Democrats passed and Clinton signed the Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. In their 1996 program the Democrats actually brag that they had added 60 new crimes to the federal death penalty and they had made it tougher for people on death row to get justice or new appeals. And in 2000 what did Al Gore do when George W. Bush was executing our brother Shaka Sankofa in Texas? Did Al Gore stand up and say, "This is a crime, this is a travesty"? Did he get up there and say "Now you'll see the difference between me and George Bush"? [Audience answers No!] No, he didn't say that. Why? Because there is no difference between him and George Bush. He not only went ahead and upheld the death penalty, he said, and this is his one bit of honesty, he said we have to recognize that some innocent people may be executed. These people would rather see innocent people go to the death chamber than that the death penalty itself be brought into question.

The death penalty in this country is an appalling injustice. This is about the only country in the world that executes minors. This is the only country in the world that executes the mentally impaired in the numbers that it does. This is the country that regularly condemns innocent people. In the last few years 87 people have been exculpated from death row because it's been proven that they have been actually fraudulently convicted. Forty percent of all the death row convictions in the last 15 years have been overturned by the federal courts because they were fraudulent. The rights of the foreign born in this country are regularly denied. There is a treaty where the United States is supposed to allow any foreign born citizen charged with a capital offense in this country to speak to a representative of their government. The United States regularly ignores this treaty. A young man named Angel Breard in Virginia was executed even though the World Court in the Hague had actually passed a injunction against the U.S. And when that World Court passed an injunction against the U.S. and said you cannot execute this man in violation of international law, what did the U.S. government say to the World Court? It said, "Fuck you, we're going to do it anyhow." That's what kind of government we're up against.

The U.S. is one of the few countries in the world that uses executions on a mass scale as an instrument of social policy. The death penalty in the U.S. is used overwhelmingly against the oppressed masses of this country, and it's used to terrorize those who are held down. The very arbitrariness of the way it is applied in this country is a part of its terrorizing role. If you're rich, you don't need to worry about the death penalty. If you're poor and you're Black, it can happen to you for any goddamn reason whatsoever. The death penalty is the keystone of their whole program of repression and their politics of cruelty. They want to hide this with their talk about "victims' rights" and the need for "closure."

Frankly, I'm getting pretty tired of Maureen Faulkner's talk about the need for "closure." Since when does "closure" take precedence over justice? And what we heard this morning was that Maureen Faulkner is going to be on the stage tonight at the Republican Convention. George Bush and Maureen Faulkner--the prom king and queen at the Executioners' Ball!

If Maureen Faulkner wants to say something, let her get up here and say what she thinks about the death penalty. Does she think that it is correct for anybody to be executed in this country when they are denied the evidence? Does she think it is okay for people to be executed in this country when Black people are removed from the jury by the use of peremptory challenges? We'd like to hear what she has to say about those things. And, at the same time, we'd like to hear her response to our exposure of the lying story that Maureen Faulkner told, when she said that Mumia Abu-Jamal had turned and grinned at her when the evidence technician held up her husband's bloody shirt. We showed by the records that Mumia was not even in the courtroom that day. It was another one of the bullshit stories they have put out. How much longer do we have to put up with this?

You know, it's fitting that the Executioners' Ball is here in Philadelphia. This is a city that has sent more people to death row than 37 states in the United States. And it has been a capital of police brutality and murder. How much longer do we have to put up with the police brutality and murder? How many more like Johnny Gammage, Anthony Baez, Latanya Haggerty, Danny Garcia, Amadou Diallo, Patrick Dorismond. Their names go on and on and on. The stolen lives--taken by this reactionary government and its police. And every time it happens what do they tell us? They tell us it's an aberration. It's a mistake. It shouldn't have happened. It's just a bad apple.

But it's not just a bad apple. It's not just a rotten apple. It's a rotten barrel. It's their policy to do this against people in this country. They say that they serve and protect. And I ask you who it is that they serve and protect?

Who is it that they were serving when they beat down the school children in this city in 1967?

Who is it they were serving when they raided the Philadelphia Panther offices in 1970?

Who is it they were serving when they put the MOVE organization under siege in 1978 and tried to starve them out?

Who is it they were serving when they tried to frame up Mumia in 1981? Who is it that they were serving when they dropped a bomb on the MOVE house in 1985 that killed 11 people, including five children, and burned down 61 houses in the neighborhood.

I'll tell you who they were serving. They were serving a rich capitalist class in this country that has no interest in the people on the bottom in this society.

Now, I'm an activist in Refuse & Resist that brings together a lot of people from a lot of different views, but I want to tell you what my own is because I have been a writer for the Revolutionary Worker newspaper, which is the paper of the Revolutionary Communist Party, for 20 years. And in that time I've learned that if you have a problem you have to come up with a solution.

The problem in this country is the oppressive system of capitalism that exploits people all over the world, that destroys our planet, that oppresses minority people, that sends people to the death chambers in droves. That is a problem that has to be done away with. Is there a solution? Yes. Revolution is the solution. And the Revolutionary Worker has put out a call to people to join with them in formulating a new programme for revolution in this country, a blueprint to go forward. Because without an actual roadmap of the way forward to revolution, we cannot do it. But with that roadmap, we can.

But because I personally hold that view, I also want to tell you that I do not think that that means that there is nothing that can be done to save these people on death row or to save Mumia Abu-Jamal in the meantime. There is. Just because they hold state power does not mean that they are all powerful. Look at today. They can't even allow traffic to run in this city because the people will not let them. [Applause]

Ask yourself this question: What are they afraid of?

Why did they have to bring out this story in Time magazine attacking Mumia this week?

Why did they have to run an editorial in today's Philadelphia Inquirer saying, "Ohhh, the death penalty, ohhh that's bad, but this guy Mumia, he should go down." "And yes, people have a complaint about the Republicans. But to call it the Executioners' Ball, no, that's going too far."

What is it they're afraid of? 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 to help Mumia? Why are we constantly subjected to these types of threats?

Are they afraid that the people will actually learn what happened at 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 people will learn how witnesses changed their stories and why?

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 this system?

Do they worry that their whole reactionary agenda may be put at stake?

I think they do worry about that.

And that is why they are both vicious and vulnerable. The two go together. They are vicious because they are vulnerable, and they are increasingly vulnerable because they are vicious.

Well, I have a stance toward their viciousness and their vulnerability. And that stance is this: 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.

By uniting 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 now we vow to make every outrage they throw up yet another nail in the coffin of their vicious system. Thank you.

To send Clark letters, write to:
Charles Clark Kissinger #53094-066, Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center, 100 29th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11232 (Clark can receive paperback books and money orders made out with his name and prisoner number.)

To demand Clark's release, contact:
Warden Hasty 718-840-4200
Unit Manager Lee Tatum ext. 5212
Address: Cadre 2 South Prison, Metropolitan Detention Center,
80 29th St., Brooklyn, NY 11232
US Marshall's office,
Daniel Byrne: 718-254-6700
US Attorney for the Eastern District, Loretta Lynch: 718-254-7000
Judge Arnold C. Rapoport: 610-776-0369; fax, 610-776-0379 (convicted and sentenced C. Clark Kissinger)
Judge Bruce Kaufman: fax, 215-580-2281 (hearing Clark's appeal)

To contact Clark's office:
C. Clark Kissinger, 655 Fulton Street #201, Brooklyn NY 11217-1112;
Phone: 212-571-0962;
e-mail (Copies of letters sent to prison authorities should be forwarded Clark's office)

Information on Clark's case and imprisonment is online at: Free Speech TV (, Rage Against the Machine (, Refuse & Resist! (, and Revolutionary Worker (

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