Revolutionary Worker #1132, December 23, 2001, posted at http://rwor.org
"It was just insane to see the police come out and randomly beat people. They didn't bother to discriminate. They just attacked. I was extremely shocked. I've lived in Philadelphia for 14 years and I've gone to Mumia demonstrations for the last seven years or so and this is the first time I've ever seen something like this happen.... I refuse to be silenced because I believe that I was out there and I was doing the right thing."
Young woman arrested in Philadelphia
on December 8, 2001
On December 8, over 600 people in Philadelphia marked the 20th anniversary of the imprisonment of political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal. It was a diverse group of people of different nationalities and political views. After a rally at city hall people took the streets and marched to 13th and Locust--where the events that resulted in Mumia's unjust imprisonment took place. As the march took the streets again police launched a vicious, unprovoked attack.
Dozens of people were beaten and maced. One protester was pinned to the ground by the police, a gun was put to his head. Outraged protesters gathered around and when people realized the cop had a gun they chanted "Let Him Go," "Shame!" and "The Whole World Is Watching." Police attacked the crowd. People stood their ground and protected each other from police beatings.
Eight people were arrested. Six were charged with felony assault, inciting to riot, conspiracy and other "crimes." (See RW #1131). Outrageous bails of up to $80,000 were set. Bail money was raised and within a few days everyone was released.
One man who was arrested told the RW: "I think what happened is a reflection of the whole repressive climate. The Pennsylvania governor was the one who was promoted to homeland security director and you notice all the laws they've passed especially after 9-11. I think [the Philadelphia police] said this is the time really to do what we have to do--what we wanted to do before but what we couldn't do. So they got the green light. They tried to scare everybody, make everybody panic so that everybody would just give up. But I think it had the opposite effect."
One youth active in the anti-globalization movement who was arrested told the RW: "We had always joked about being in a police state and how after 9-11 things were going to change. This just really woke me up. It was reality looking me straight in the face and it made me think about a lot of things...The bills that are being passed through the House and Senate--civil rights are being completely taken away. And it's all being done under the guise of what happened on the 11th, under the guise of 'stopping terrorism.' I wouldn't be surprised to see that one day all people who protest anything that's against the norm are going to be considered terrorists that are automatically open to attack by the police or other oppressive organizations."
Face to Face with the Brutality of the PPD
From the time he was a young member of the Black Panther Party, through the attacks on the MOVE organization, and from his prison cell on death row, Mumia has spoken out against police brutality. This is one of the reasons the government wants to kill him. People arrested got firsthand experience of the vicious brutality the Philadelphia police are famous for.
One youth said: "I was handcuffed. The cops punched me in the face and started yelling stuff at me. When the Buddhist priest [who was also arrested] first got in the police van he told them he had a heart condition. Then all of a sudden he started groaning and he passed out. So we started banging on the walls with our heads and beating on the ground yelling for a medic. It took about 10 minutes for them to respond. You could hear them outside beating on the van laughing but they wouldn't open the door.
"My wrist was black and blue from the handcuffs. It was so swollen that they couldn't even put new handcuffs on. They were calling me 'pussy' and said if you want us to hurt your wrist we can take you in the back room and really do that for you, things like that."
A young woman told the RW: "I was surprised to see the brutality that went on. These women in there are just locked up and brutalized. One woman I met in jail was beaten up by this cop. When she tried to go to the hospital they pressed all these assault charges on her. A few minutes before they brought her in she was brutally punched by this cop. I believe he dislocated her jaw. Half her face was swollen and there was blood coming out of her mouth and nose. She kept crying and asked if she could be sent to the hospital. And they just ignored her for about 15 hours before they arraigned her. Being locked up for two days is nothing compared to people that have been locked up for years due to this racist system. I felt really lucky that I had this amazing supportive network around me and people that really cared."
The viciousness of the police attack made many question the nature of the system more deeply--and made people even more determined to build a movement that can free Mumia.
One youth said: "Who's going to be there to stand up for you if you don't stand up for someone now? Somewhere we have to take a stand and somewhere there has to be a mass mobilization against the general overall oppression. And it has to be shown that basically we're not going to take it--we're not going to stand for it any longer." One of the women told us: "People really need to step up to this system. Because if they feel like they can attack us like this, they're going to attack anybody and everyone who is supporting Mumia--and possibly Mumia himself."
An Asian woman who was arrested told us: "I grew up in South Philly and I've seen the police brutalize Southeast Asian youth and there wasn't a thing that we could have done about it because we didn't know where to go or who to go to or what to do because of the cultural and language barrier.... If they murder Mumia they're murdering me and my voice and my community. Mumia has written about Wen Ho Lee. He's written articles about immigration and he's written anti-war articles. He's taken a stand against police brutality and all these issues. And by silencing him they're silencing the voice of the Asian community as well.... Mumia needs all of us right now. And we need all of each other right now as well because that's what it's going to take to resist the system."
A brother who was arrested told us why he feels the struggle to free Mumia is so important: "Mumia is a revolutionary and he is on the side of the people. Mumia represents the Black Panther Party. Mumia represents the voice of the voiceless. Mumia represents someone who articulates the suffering of a section of the masses... He's on the side of the poor. That's why he's precious and special."
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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