Reporters Notebook from...

Camp Free Mumia

Revolutionary Worker #1104, May 27, 2001, posted at

From May 11 to 13, the plaza in front of Philadelphia's City Hall--the very building in which Mumia Abu-Jamal was convicted for a crime he did not commit--was transformed into Camp Free Mumia. Organizers from the International Action Center (IAC) and International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal successfully fought the city's attempts to deny the camp a permit. For 48 hours people occupied the plaza. Youth from Philadelphia came to check out a hip hop show on Friday night. Videos about Mumia's case and the MOVE bombing were projected onto the walls of city hall. People stayed up long into the night to discuss these injustices. Homeless men who sleep in the plaza joined in. People stood on the street curbs with "Honk for Mumia" signs--and got a great response. On Sunday, people went to a program in honor of the 11 MOVE members who were murdered when the government dropped a bomb on a MOVE house on Osage Avenue on May 13, 1985.

Saturday, May 12, was an international day of protest for Mumia. In Philadelphia, 600 people rallied and marched through the streets of Center City. Darby Tillis--who spent over nine years on death row for a crime he did not commit--marched the entire route in leg irons to "put a face on what Mumia looks like and how he travels each and every day." Dozens of people carried a 65-foot quilt made from hundreds of different cloth squares sent by people all over the world. A large group of drummers beat out a powerful rhythm for hours.

Youth from Philadelphia mingled with activists of many nationalities from as far away as Indiana, St. Louis, New Mexico and Alaska. Students who had just heard about Mumia's case joined veterans of the struggle--young members of MOVE, Refuse & Resist!, Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade, IAC and anarchists.

A 16-year-old Philadelphia high school student who found out about Mumia's case at a Rage Against the Machine benefit concert in 1999 said: "This is supposed to be a democracy. We're supposed to fight for everyone's rights as people and yet I don't see it. I see a repressive police state everywhere.... Mumia is inspiring. He's just a journalist who speaks the truth. I've been watching the news--how biased and one-sided it is.... This case showed me that there's other political prisoners out there besides Mumia Abu-Jamal, that the prison-industrial complex is growing and it needs to be stopped, that the gap between the rich and the poor is widening, especially with the free trade agreements and that there's a lot of police officers themselves that are extremely racist--like the police brutality you saw in Cincinnati."

Juanita Young's son Malcolm Ferguson was murdered by the NYPD two days after the cops who shot Amadou Diallo 41 times were found not guilty. She marched with the October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. She came because: "Mumia is alive. They tried to kill him and they couldn't. They executed my son. He didn't have a chance. Mumia still has a chance. I'm out to fight to save his life. Mumia spoke up for what he believe, like my son stood up for what he believed. When he was at the Diallo rally he stood up for what he believed--that what they did to Diallo was wrong. They turned around and killed him. So I'm out here standing up for my son. I believe what they did to my son was wrong. They executed my son. They're trying to execute Mumia. No! Let us get him out of jail. It's not fair.... I am so proud to see so many young people out here fighting for Mumia.... It's people like Mumia that give us the will to go out there and stop these people."

There were many speeches, songs and spoken word performances at the rally. Larry Holmes of IAC welcomed people and told the story of Wanda Jean Allen--a lesbian and the first African-American woman to be executed in almost a half a century (on January 11): "We're not going to forget it. She was one of the people-- along with Shaka Sankofa and all the other people--who have been murdered by this racist government. That's what Camp Free Mumia is about. Mumia represents all of them--those who have been murdered and those whose lives we are still trying to save."

Ramona Africa--the only adult survivor of the 1985 bombing of MOVE by the Philadelphia police--told the crowd: "When we talk about this case and all of the evidence showing Mumia's innocent and why he should not be executed; when we talk about the May 13 bombing of my family; when we talk about people like Window Washing Charlie--who was shot 23 times by cops--11 times in the back; when we talk about Barre Choice, Winston Hood, Jose Reyes, Nelson Artis, William Green, Amadou Diallo or Anthony Baez [who have all been murdered by the police], people express shock.... This country was founded on blood--on blood, on slaughter, on killing and rape and murder and thievery--this country called America. And John Africa teach if you start out with crime and bloodshed why would you be surprised that you have it now?.... We need to stand up and let people know around the world what this country represents. We've got to raise our voices loud and clear!"

Clark Kissinger said, "To stop the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal and win his freedom will require nothing less than an unprecedented movement that hits this heartless beast hard. But it is also a vulnerable beast because each new crime awakens new waves of resistance, as we have seen in Cincinnati. Clark called on the people to "raise the specter of determined resistance, that combines our rich social diversity with the audacity of the youth in a movement that will never step back from the challenge that is before us."

Matie from the Lesbian Avengers said she came because "People are marginalized by the system and an injury to one is an injury to all." A representative of the Palestine Right To Return Coalition spoke in solidarity: "As of May 2, 71 journalists covering the Palestinian intifada have been shot and/or beaten by Israeli forces. Six press agencies in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have been shelled. We are here today to reaffirm that those brave men and women who risk their freedom and their lives should never be censored, imprisoned or sentenced to death. We recognize that Mumia Abu-Jamal--like all those who pick up a pen as a weapon to unmask oppression--is not a criminal. Mumia Abu-Jamal is a freedom fighter."

Rev. Lucius Walker of Pastors for Peace sent a statement of support for Mumia: "We express our deepest admiration for your continued strength of will and determination in the face of a legal lynching and nearly 20 years of wrongful incarceration that you have suffered at the hands of men of power. They are the real criminals.... The U.S. government says there are no political prisoners in this country, but you and your supporters have proven that to be a lie before the entire world. The U.S. government says it's the most democratic, but the so-called "election" that got a serial killer into the White House last year exposed the farce that this is our electoral system. The U.S. government says that ours is the freest country in the world, even as more than two million of our men, women and children are prisoners, and the vast majority of them poor and people of color."

Members of the Refuse & Resist! Youth Network called on youth to take part in the seventh annual Philly Freedom Summer. Other speakers included Pam Africa of International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal; Haitian activist and union organizer Ray LaForrest; Mark Taylor of Academics for Mumia; Marlene Kamish, one of Mumia's new attorneys; and Sam Jordan, former Director of Amnesty International's Program to Abolish the Death Penalty.

Carl Dix, National Spokesperson for the Revolutionary Communist Party, said: "We've got to build the kind of movement that will let 'em know we're not going to let 'em get away with murdering our brother. That's our responsibility, that's the task that we're up against. This movement has got to be broad, diverse and determined. It's got to bring in people from all different backgrounds, different walks of life, different races and nationalities, people speaking different languages--but all united in a stand that this brother deserves justice. We've got to bring in people who are against the death penalty. We've got to bring in people who are against police brutality. We've got to bring in people who are against the way that this system is not allowing people to stand up and speak out. We've got to bring all of that together. We've got to bring people from many different walks of life. But we also need on the cutting edge of this the spirit of the youthful rebels of Cincinnati and Quebec....

"Sisters and brothers, in building this movement I urge you to look at this system--the system that would give us a rotten case like this--that would put men on death row who they know are innocent, a system that would put cops out there and give them a green light to brutalize and even murder people and back them up when they commit these crimes. I think a system like that is rotten to the core and needs to be done away with in the only way possible, through revolution. But if revolution is too far for you to go, justice can't be too far for you to go, cause if you don't stand up for justice and fight for Mumia and other people who are being dealt with injustice, that injustice is gonna come and visit you."

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