Actions for Mumia Mark 20 Years of Resistance from Death Row

Revolutionary Worker #1131, December 16, 2001, posted at

"We are being denied every day even the basic little civil liberties that we had before. We are seeing the systematic erosion of civil liberties--of basic human freedom in this country. And so when we defend Mumia we defend the whole idea of civil liberties. All over this country we see an intensification of the abuse of law which we saw in the past. People are being arrested because of their color, because of their beards, because of their accent... Cheney says we don't know when this war is going to end. We may not even live to see the end of this war. We are being plunged into the absurdity of an indeterminate war... When you go out and you inflict terror on people they are likely to respond with terror. Every time you inflict terror on other people, you are generating new responses, new terrorism. What is this absurdity of a war without end?"

Dennis Brutus, former South African
political prisoner, who spoke shortly before
police attacked a march in support of
Mumia Abu-Jamal in Philadelphia

"Obviously this was a deliberate, planned provocation. They don't want us out there. They know Mumia is innocent. We know they know he's innocent. And they want to do whatever they can to keep him in prison and murder him. And they know we're not going to allow it. That's why they provoked the situation -- because they're pissed, plain and simple. They don't like it. Well too damned bad! I don't like my brother being on death row."

Consuewella Africa, a member of the MOVE organization
who served over 16 years in prison, framed up after police raid
of a MOVE house in Powelton Village in Philadelphia

On December 8, over 600 people came to Philadelphia to support Mumia Abu-Jamal on the 20th anniversary of the events that led to his unjust imprisonment --to demand the government stop its plans to execute Mumia and free him. And people got a taste of the vicious "Philadelphia justice" that put Mumia on death row.

After a short rally at city hall, people held a spirited march through the streets. They stopped at the corner of 13th and Locust--where 20 years ago Mumia was almost murdered and where police officer Daniel Faulkner [who Mumia was convicted of murdering] was shot. As people took off again and turned a corner the police attacked the march.

The attack involved dozens of Philadelphia cops, including the "civil affairs" unit--the intelligence police who have a long history of surveillance, covert operations, frame-ups of innocent people and disruption of political organizations (see RW #1090 and #1091).

At the back of the march a woman who was not in the demonstration suddenly started an argument with a young protester. Then she told the police that the youth had hit her. The cops pointed at the youth and said "get him!" The youth ran. Two cops chased him into the center of the protest and tackled him to the ground. One of cops pulled out a small silver pistol and pointed it at the youth's head.

Outraged protesters gathered around, and when people realized the cop had a gun on the youth they formed a circle around the cops.

One woman who was there on the scene told the RW what she saw: "The two officers had him restrained, his face on the ground, his arms behind his back. And the crowd was saying, 'Shame! Shame on you!' They took the pepper spray and sprayed the crowd. They took the gun and started brandishing the gun at the crowd. They took the gun back to the guy's head." A friend of the youth on the ground said: "The cops tried to take him away several times. They kept getting stopped by the demonstrators who were surrounding them shouting "Shame!" and "The Whole World Is Watching!" They were just trying to get him released, to pull him away from the cops."

Suddenly dozens more cops appeared and attacked the crowd in an attempt to break up the demonstration. They maced people, used their sticks to shove them to the sidewalk and beat them to the ground. Two women were arrested after they fell down. A man with a camera was grabbed off a car. One cop raised his stick at Juanita Young--whose son Malcolm Ferguson was shot by the NYPD. Another protester yelled: "The cops killed her son, don't touch her!" Protesters helped each other get away. Youth put their bodies in front of or on top of older people so they wouldn't get hurt by the police.

One woman was dragged on her back screaming for over 100 yards. Her friend told us: "They were pulling her by her shirt. She was apparently choking. Her face was bright red. Her collar of her shirt was locked around her neck. She was definitely in pain. Her naked back was fully exposed to the street and they were dragging her when they could have easily picked her up." The woman was hospitalized, unconscious, after she was arrested.

Despite the brutality of the police, the crowd refused to disperse. They stood their ground--even people who later said they were shocked and scared. A standoff with police went on for a short time. Then the crowd chanted, "The people united will never be defeated!" and took the streets again and continued to march to the Philadelphia Ethical Society for another rally. Legal aid and other assistance for those arrested was organized and a group of people went to the precinct to protest and make sure everyone arrested was okay.

As we go to press people are still in jail. Seven people were arrested and charged with felony assault and felony riot-- including a Black man, two Asian women and a 50-year-old Buddhist reverend with a heart condition. Those arrested included anarchists and youth who are members of International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, Refuse & Resist!, and the October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality. Three people were hospitalized.

Since September 11, a reactionary climate has blanketed the country and step-by-step, all kinds of repressive measures are being put in place. Top ruling class figures like Attorney General Ashcroft blatantly say people have to "watch what they say." People who criticize the government are threatened with censorship and accused of "siding with the enemy." Tom Ridge, former Governor of Pennsylvania who signed two death warrants for Mumia, is now in charge of "Homeland Security." And all this has puffed up and emboldened the police--including in Philadelphia, where the Fraternal Order of Police has, for years, campaigned to have Mumia executed. In the face of this, it is very significant that the people are pressing forward, determined to stop the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal.

This is a time when the rulers of this country are telling the people that the "war on terrorism" is a fight to "defend what America stands for"--that we have to defend "this country's way of life" and the "freedoms Americans have." Meanwhile, thousands of people have been detained based on the color of their skin, their nationality or religion. The government plans to hold secret military tribunals that would have the power of life and death over anyone singled out for punishment. The Justice Department plans to intensify spying, harassment and disruption of domestic political groups who oppose U.S. government policies. And when hundreds of people demonstrate to save the life of a political prisoner who has been unjustly kept on death row for over 20 years--the police launch a brutal attack and deliver a message that dissent will not be allowed.

The government is dead serious about executing Mumia. The people must build a movement of millions that is broad, diverse and determined--to stop this execution and free Mumia from their clutches.

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