Liberation Demo for Mumia and Against U.S. Oppression Around the Globe

Revolutionary Worker #1159, July 21, 2002, posted at

We received the following from a correspondent.

Philadelphia, July 4--To the sounds of Insurrection, a Boston reggae band who had driven all night to open the rally, 300 people gathered outside City Hall for a "Liberation Demonstration for Mumia and Against U.S. Oppression Across the Globe."

On the same day, a few blocks away at the Liberty Bell, Bush's Secretary of State Colin Powell was presented with the official Liberty Award, under very heavy security measures.

At the City Hall rally, Pam Africa of the International Concerned Family & Friends of Mumia Abu- Jamal told the chilling story of July 3, 1982, when Mumia was unjustly sentenced to death inside the building for the murder of a cop. A crew of activists who have lived the "Philadelphia Story" of police brutality and murder sanctioned by the city government welcomed others from the East Coast and youth participating in the 8th annual Philly Freedom Summer for Mumia.

People were sober thinking about the deep injustice of Mumia's spending 20 long years on death row--but also really heartened by the words coming from him against the war and repression since 9/11. Many have worked for years to free Mumia; but for quite a few youth in the crowd, this was their first action for Mumia, and they were jazzed to be in Philadelphia. Folks were ready to take the streets for the first street march in this city since December 8 last year, on the 20th anniversary of Mumia's arrest. At that protest, the police jumped the marchers, beat dozens of people, and arrested six.

But first, we got a shot of inspiration from the awarding of alternate "Liberty Awards." Lynda Richardson, director of the Black United Fund in Philadelphia (which coordinates donations to non- profit Black organizations), was recognized for resisting the attempts of the Philadelphia city government to shut down the BUF for processing funds given to Mumia's defense. The City stopped allowing its employees to have donations to the BUF deducted through their paychecks. As a result, the BUF offices had to close this year, and the staff lost their jobs. They are now struggling to reopen in September. Lynda said, "You have to stand for what you believe in no matter what the consequences and what the cost is. I am just so proud to be able to accept this award on behalf of the 130,000 people that the Black United Fund served in 1999 and to urge you to support our organization as we celebrate our 20th anniversary. We who believe in freedom cannot rest."

After a raucous, drum-led march with many photos of Mumia, Palestinian and Puerto Rican flags, Black nationalist flags, and red internationalist flags, we arrived just outside the fence from the Liberty Bell. Peoples' lawyer Lynne Stewart, now under federal indictment for her legal work in representing people accused of terrorism, was given a people's award for 40 years of defending political prisoners and for courageously resisting the charges against her. She said, "The men who wrote the Patriot Act are not unlike the ones who wrote the Declaration of Independence: They want to keep it for themselves, keep the rest of the world, and keep those who are disenfranchised at home out of this rich, rich country. We will fight them till we win! We are here to commemorate Mumia. It is a crime against him and against humanity that he remains in prison."

Palestinian activist Susan Abulhawa was the third recipient of the people's award. She spoke against Colin Powell for his role in the U.S. attacks on the people of Iraq. And she condemned U.S. support for Israel and its occupation of Palestine: "As we speak, three million people, three million souls, are locked in their homes like cattle, unable to go out, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And if they go out they're shot.... The leaders--the people who are instrumental in making these war crimes possible--are being given a Liberty Award in Philadelphia."

Many speakers at the rally and people in the crowd spoke of the burning need to stop the war and repression since 9/11. Philly Freedom Summer and Refuse & Resist! activists distributed postcards of the "Not in Our Name" Pledge of Resistance.

C. Clark Kissinger, revolutionary journalist and long-time activist in the struggle to free Mumia, connected the issues of war and repression with the fight for Mumia: "Long before 9/11, Mumia was a prime example of how justice is twisted and bent in this country by the institutions of white supremacy and capitalism. Many people know that the case was characterized by a phony confession, Blacks removed from jury, witnesses coerced and bribed, evidence withheld from the jury, and his former membership in the Blank Panther Party was brought into the trial as an argument for giving him the death sentence... What we have to do is continue the fight for Mumia and around all the current injustices. We have to fight through for Mumia's freedom as a part of taking on this whole offensive against the people. We can't let them take his life, or lock him up in a tomb. There is too much at stake. We have to prevent any new death sentence, overturn the conviction, and free Mumia.... We have to ask ourselves and others: what does his case show about this system that we are now called upon to bomb and invade other nations for? Is this way of life worth bombing people for, worth giving up our rights for, worth fighting and dying for? Hell no. Free Mumia!"

As the rally ended, we joined the Philly Freedom Summer volunteers to walk to the corner of 13th and Locust, where Mumia was shot, beaten, and arrested for the killing of the cop who died at the scene. It was heavy to be there on a sultry, hot day, within a mile of the monument to "independence," with Mumia across the state in solitary confinement. We talked about the fight to free Mumia, what we're up against in this struggle, and ways to mobilize more people. The volunteers were eager to get out among the people of Philly and start doing that.

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