Revolutionary Worker #1104, May 27, 2001, posted at http://rwor.org
On a beautiful spring day in San Francisco, about 2,000 people took part in the May 12 Western Regional Mass Demonstration to demand "Stop the Execution! Overturn the Conviction! Free Mumia Abu-Jamal!" The demonstration was sponsored by the Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal and endorsed by a broad coalition of groups.
As the march pulled out of Dolores Park in the Mission District and into the streets, 500 people picked up red, black and white signs with a picture of Mumia's face and the march's slogans. The march concluded at the downtown Civic Center with a rally that mixed speeches and statements of support with hip hop performances. Radio station KPFA preempted regular programming with three hours of live broadcast from the rally.
Among the speakers was Eliot Grossman, one of Mumia's attorneys, who talked about the new evidence submitted to the courts in Mumia's case--including the affidavit by Mumia describing, for the first time under oath, what happened on the night he was shot and arrested for the murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner. (See "Mumia Abu-Jamal Speaks Out" in RW #1103 for more on the new developments in the case.) One of the MC's for the rally read Mumia's affidavit. The other speakers included former Black Panther Kiilu Nyasha; Luis Talamantes, one of the San Quentin 6 and an organizer with California Prison Focus; and Walter Johnson, secretary-treasurer of the 1.8 million member California Labor Federation. The San Francisco Labor Council, representing 80,000 workers, was a formal sponsor of the rally. After an introduction by the Youth Student Network of the October 22nd Coalition, a tape of the statement made by C. Clark Kissinger to the demo in Philadelphia was played.
The hip hop group Company of Profits led the crowd in a call and response: "When we say freedom, you all say fighter!" Also performing were Bamuthi, Blackalicious, and poet Ana de Leon. One performer summed up the spirit of the day in a song dedicated to Mumia: "Ain't nothing going to hold us back!"
One thing that stood out was the strong participation of youth. Many of the youth were at their first Mumia demonstration. Ian, dressed punk-style with bright red hair, drove up with friends from San Jose. He first heard about Mumia from spoken word performer Jello Biafra and the band Rage Against the Machine. He told the RW, "I'm starting to get involved, finally... I'm out here because I think the whole case is a symbol of people being convicted because of their political beliefs. The system is unjust in a lot of cases. We need to stop this thing that has been going on for a long time where you can be framed for your political beliefs and put away... By being here we are sending a message that we can speak out our voices and not be afraid of it."
A group of about 30 high school students came from Kennedy High School in Richmond--a poor, mainly Black and Latino city just north of Berkeley. Lenore, one of the students, spoke to the RW: "A class of ours is here to support Mumia. It's a learning experience. We're learning what happened to him and his situation. We know that it's not right and that's why we're here. We talked about it in our class, and our teacher said that there is something that we can do by coming here to support him. By being here I feel that I am contributing. It's not right that he's in jail and he's been in jail so long. They should just let him go."
A group of students came from Stanford University. A new student group called MAJESTIC--Mumia Abu-Jamal Emancipative Stanford Team Investigating Change--had organized a rally for Mumia at the campus the week before.
Students organized bus trips to the demonstration from UCLA, UC Irvine, Cal State Long Beach, San Jose State, Santa Clara University, and other campuses. A Black student from Cal State Long Beach, who came to the demonstration on a bus with 30 other students from the campus, said, "I learned about the case just two days ago and I decided to come up here because it's wrong how they did him. He didn't get a fair hearing, and they're going to take a man's life for no reason."
Rich carried a sign from an Asian American student group: "We came up in a bus with about 60 other students from UCLA and UC Irvine and other schools throughout Southern California. We came up here to support the cause--to free Mumia. Because if Mumia is executed it affects all of us, especially people of color, the poor, the working class."
It was also the first Mumia demonstration for a young man who works with San Francisco Food Not Bombs. Activists with the group were arrested the Monday before the demonstration for giving free food to the homeless in UN Plaza, a couple of blocks from City Hall. He pointed out, "Mumia's case is an example of the racism and police harassment in this country. People say that this is supposed to be a free country, it's really not."
Elena, a young activist with the group Copwatch in Berkeley, talked about the urgency of the fight for Mumia: "Mumia's case is at a crucial point where he needs as much support as possible from every faction of life. The more diversity out here the better. Mumia's case stands for a lot. It talks about the death penalty and the corruption of the capitalist system and the injustice of the courts. I think it's good to see the connections that Mumia's case has with everybody. He's such an awesome speaker and writer. His voice really needs to be heard, and it's sad that they're trying to silence him."
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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