Revolutionary Worker #1147, April 21, 2002, posted at http://rwor.org
From April 4 to 8, 2002 close to a thousand people took part in a series of events in Philadelphia in support of political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal. Activists from all over the east coast, and a few from the Midwest and Europe, joined hundreds of people from Philly to speak against the great injustice that has kept Mumia on Pennsylvania's death row for 20 years.
Educators for Mumia held a press conference on the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the 1199 Union Hall near the corner where Mumia was shot and arrested in 1981. Speakers were historian Robert Zaller of Drexel University, sociologist Sandra Jones of Rowan University and Temple University, political philosopher C. George Caffentzis of the University of Southern Maine, sociologist Anthony Monteiro of the University of the Sciences of Philadelphia, Farah Jasmine Griffin of the University of Pennsylvania, political scientist Anna J. Brown, Carolyn Birden of the Community College of Philadelphia, and religion scholar Mark Taylor of Princeton Theological Seminary.
An April 6 teach-in drew 700 people of all ages and many nationalities to Benjamin Franklin high school in North Philadelphia, where Mumia was a student rebel. Attorney Elliott Grossman and Pam Africa from International Concerned Family & Friends spoke about the legal case and the battle to free Mumia. An international delegation from France brought messages of solidarity and a $4,000 check for the legal defense. Terri Maurer-Carter explained how she overheard the judge in Mumia's original trial, Judge Sabo, say in a conversation "I'm going to help 'em fry the n*gger" -- new evidence that the courts have so far refused to hear.
Ramona Africa talked about the struggle to free Mumia and the many other political prisoners in the U.S. She stressed that "We have to do the work to put these people in the position where they won't have a choice but to let our people out of these prisons. I'm talking about the MOVE 9, Mumia, brother Jamil Al-Amin, Fred Thomas--across the board in every city, every state across this country, despite what the government tries to tell people that there are no political prisoners in the United States, that's a damn lie! There are plenty of political prisoners throughout this country. And it's our role to expose that lie and force this government to release our soldiers from these prisons."
Speeches were interwoven with educational videos and performances by musicians and dancers. Other speakers drew links between the battle to free Mumia and other struggles. Imam Al-Haji'Talib' Rashid from Harlem's Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood exposed the government frame-up of Imam Jamil Al-Amin (formerly known as H. Rap Brown). Dr. Shouki Kassis of the Arab-American Anti- Discrimination Committee talked about the struggle in Palestine. Father Luis Barrios spoke about U.S. colonial domination of Puerto Rico and the U.S. bombing of Vieques.
Ron Johnson of National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America and Robert Taylor of the December 12th Movement spoke about the struggle for reparations. Elombe Brath of the Patrice Lumumba Coalition spoke about the U.S. government's "war on terrorism" and racial profiling which is now not only leveled at Black people, but Arab, Muslim and South Asians as well. Larry Holmes of International ANSWER Coalition called on people to stand with the struggle of the Palestinian people in Washington, D.C. on April 20. Family members of Fred Thomas, an innocent man on Pennsylvania's death row, described how prison authorities are torturing Thomas, who is suffering from terminal liver disease and being denied treatment, including pain medication.
In a night of culture for Mumia, the New York hip hop group Ricanstruction performed the night before the teach-in, at Calvary Church in West Philadelphia.
On April 7, Refuse & Resist! launched a "Resist This!" nationwide speaking tour at Robin's bookstore in Center City Philadelphia. New York filmmaker and activist David Becker, revolutionary journalist C. Clark Kissinger spoke about the need to build powerful resistance to the ongoing war and police state. The theatre troupe Thesbians & Drama Queens (TDQ) did improvisational theater that featured audience participation in a piece they called "What does your anti-war movement look like?"
On April 8, people filled a courtroom in Philadelphia to support six people who were arrested at a December 8, 2001 protest for Mumia in Philadelphia when police beat people and drew guns on the crowd. The December 8 protest was held on the 20th anniversary of Mumia's arrest. The six activists face an array of felony and misdemeanor charges. At the preliminary hearing, all charges were dropped against one man when the police could not identify him; and three defendants had their felony charges dropped. A Haitian activist from New York and a young woman still face charges of felony assault on police. Supporters stress that all five defendants still face jail terms, and that the Philadelphia authorities seem determined to stop street protests in Philadelphia.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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