Put U.S. State Racism and Terrorism on Trial
Mumia Abu Jamal is a militant organizer for the rights of African Americans, prisoners, and all those facing the injustice and brutality of the racist U.S. state. In a politically motivated action by the government Mumia was framed on a murder charge in a case involving the death of a policeman. He has been on death row for close to thirty years despite witnesses, photos, a confession by another person to the crime and other evidence documenting his innocence. He has repeatedly been denied a new trial as the government acts to set an example that resistance will not be tolerated.
A demonstration is taking place November 9 when the courts will hear arguments as to whether Mumia should be sentenced to life without parole or sentenced to death. The government continues to pursue the death penalty. It is acting the in face of worldwide condemnation of the racist persecution of Mumia, as well as demands for a new trial by organizations like Amnesty International and others.
In the course of his long imprisonment Mumia has stood tall and continued work as a writer, radio journalist, and defender of rights. He has repeatedly given his support in demanding the release of all political prisoners and in demanding an end to the government’s mass incarceration of African Americans, its use of racist trials and jury selection, and elimination of the death penalty, which is also imposed on a racist basis. He represents unvanquished resistance to U.S. state terrorism and the necessity to organizing to defend rights. For this reason has continued to face the threat of death and also won the broad support of all justice-loving people.
Voice of Revolution salutes Mumia’s resistance and just stand for the rights of all and urges all to join in demonstrations, signing petitions and other actions to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Now.
On November 9, 2010, Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia will consider reinstating the death sentence on internationally renowned Death Row political prisoner, Mumia Abu-Jamal
On January 10, 2010 the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the Third Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its decision on overturning the original death sentence meted out to Mumia in July 1982 by Judge Albert Sabo. On March 27, 2008, the Third Circuit had upheld Judge William Yohn’s decision of December 18, 2001 in which he affirmed Abu-Jamal’s conviction but threw out his death sentence on the grounds that the instructions to the jury had violated the Supreme Court’s Mills precedent and therefore entitled Abu-Jamal to have his death sentence overturned.
Hundreds of protesters from around the world will be gathering both inside the courtroom, where arguments will be heard for and against Abu-Jamal’s execution, and outside in a support rally for Abu-Jamal. The rally is called for 12 Noon at 6th and Market Streets and the court hearing is called for 2pm.
The outpouring of support for Abu-Jamal and the outrage expressed at the possibility once again of his execution has exceeded organizers’ expectations. Nine French officials have already arrived in Philadelphia to express the widespread support in France for Abu-Jamal’s freedom. On very short notice, French city council representatives of districts, representatives of the General Confederation of Labor (CGT) (the umbrella union that played such a leading role in the recent French protests), and the Deputy Director of United Against the Death Penalty gathered to travel as a group from Paris. Professor and journalist Michael Schiffman, who exposed the now-famous Polakoff photographs [showing police mishandling the gun they claim was involved and then lying about it in court — VOR ed] has also arrived in Philadelphia. The police and prosecutors from the defense withheld the photos for years, as they profoundly challenge the prosecution’s version of what happened on December 9, 1981, the night of the killing of Officer Faulkner and the near killing of Mumia and his subsequent targeting and incarceration. Chairman of the Prisoners of Conscience Committee, Fred Hampton, Jr., son of the late martyred FBI and Chicago Police victim, Black Panther Fred Hampton, Sr. who was murdered in December 1969 and many other labor, religious, activist leaders and rank and file supporters of Abu-Jamal are on their way to Philadelphia.
Pam Africa, head of the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal has called on everyone to stand up at this critical moment to those who are fighting for Abu-Jamal’s execution despite extensive evidence of his innocence. She has identified District Attorney Seth Williams as a key voice for the execution. “Seth Williams stated that when a new sentencing hearing happens he will ask for the death penalty,” explained the militant international leader of this movement.
Demonstrations and film showings of a new film that portrays both arguments for and against Mumia’s innocence called Justice for Mumia, produced by Professor Johanna Fernandez, are being held in dozens of cities in this country: Oakland, San Francisco, Houston, Albany, Detroit, Los Angeles, Toronto and across the globe in Germany, Holland, England, France, Mexico, Jamaica, and Canada.
To highlight just a few, there will be demonstrations both in London and Paris, at the respective US Embassy sites. In France there will be additional demonstrations at Consulates in: Bordeaux, Lyon, Marseille, Nice, Rennes, Strasbourg, and Toulouse. In Mexico, too, a demonstration is scheduled for November 9 at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City.
But all eyes will surely be focused on Philadelphia where the arguments will be made and a decision will follow within weeks or months regarding this case that many consider a disgrace to the U.S. judicial system. Amnesty International in its February 2000 report called “A Life in the Balance: The Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal” states very clearly that this case “failed to meet minimum international standards safeguarding the fairness of legal proceedings” and called for a new trial for Abu-Jamal. […]
Who is Mumia Abu-Jamal?
Mumia Abu-Jamal is a renowned journalist from Philadelphia who has been in prison since 1981 and on death row since 1983 for allegedly shooting Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. He is known as the “Voice of the Voiceless” for his award- winning reporting on police brutality and other social and racial epidemics that plague communities of color in Philadelphia and throughout the world. Mumia has received international support over the years in his efforts to overturn his unjust conviction.
Mumia Abu-Jamal was serving as the President of the Association of Black Journalists at the time of his arrest. He was a founding member of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Black Panther Party as a teenager. Years later he began reporting professionally on radio stations such as NPR, and was the news director of Philadelphia station WHAT. Much of his journalism called attention to the blatant injustice and brutality he watched happen on a daily basis to MOVE, a revolutionary organization that works to protect all forms of life--human, animal, plant--and the Earth as a whole.
In 1981, Mumia worked as a cab driver at night to supplement his income. On December 9th he was driving his cab through the red light district of downtown Philadelphia at around 4 a.m. Mumia testifies that he let off a fare and parked near the corner of 13th and Locust Streets. Upon hearing gunshots, he turned and saw his brother, William Cook, staggering in the street. Mumia exited the cab and ran to the scene, where he was shot by a uniformed police officer and fell to the ground, fading in and out of consciousness. Within minutes, police arrived on the scene to find Officer Faulkner and Mumia shot; Faulkner died. Mumia was arrested, savagely beaten, thrown into a paddy wagon and driven to a hospital a few blocks away (suspiciously, it took over 30 minutes to arrive at the hospital). Mumia somehow survived.
The trial began in 1982 with Judge Sabo (who sent more people to death row than any other judge) presiding. Mumia wished to represent himself and have John Africa as his legal advisor, but before jury selection had finished, this right was revoked and an attorney was forcibly appointed for him. Throughout the trial, Mumia was accused of disrupting court proceedings and was not allowed to attend most of his own trial. Sabo lived up to his nickname of “Prosecutor in Robes.”
The prosecution claimed that the shot that killed Faulkner came from Mumia Abu-Jamal’s legally registered .38-caliber weapon, contradicting the medical examiner’s report that the bullet removed from Faulkner’s brain was a .44-caliber. This fact was kept from the jury. Moreover, a ballistics expert found it incredible that police at the scene failed to test Mumia’s gun to see if it had been recently fired, or to test his hands for powder residue. One of the most damning prosecution claims was that Mumia confessed at the hospital. However, this confession was not reported until nearly two months after December 9th, immediately after Mumia had filed a brutality suit against the police. One of the officers who claims to have heard the confession is Gary Wakshul. However, in his police report on that day he stated, “the Negro male made no comments.” Dr. Coletta, the attending physician who was with Mumia the entire time, says that he never heard Mumia speak.
The star prosecution witness, a prostitute named Cynthia White, was someone no other witness reported seeing at the scene. During the trial of Billy Cook (Mumia’s brother) just weeks before Mumia’s trial, White gave testimony completely contradictory to what she stated at Mumia’s trial. Her testimony at Billy Cook’s trial placed someone at the scene who was not there when police arrived. This corroborates the other five witness accounts that someone fled the scene. In a 1997 hearing, another former prostitute, Pamela Jenkins, testified that White was acting as a police informant. Other sworn testimony revealed that witness coercion was routinely practiced by the police. In 1995, eyewitness William Singletary testified that police repeatedly tore up his initial statement--that the shooter fled the scene--until he finally signed something acceptable to them. The following year, witness Veronica Jones came forward to testify that she had been coerced into changing her initial statement that two men fled the scene. Witness Billy Cook, who was present the whole time, has stated very clearly that Mumia is absolutely innocent.
Due to police manipulation of witnesses, fabrication of evidence, and the rights of the defense severely denied, Mumia was found guilty. He was sentenced to death during the penalty phase based solely on his political beliefs. Mumia has been unjustly separated from his family for twenty-two years, with the threat of death looming over his head.
In 2001, court stenographer Terri Maurer-Carter came forward and stated that in 1982, before Mumia’s trial began, she heard Judge Sabo say, “Yeah, and I’m going to help them fry the n****r.” He was referring to Mumia. This backs up evidence of judicial bias and racism in Mumia’s case. In the same year, esteemed Philadelphia journalist Linn Washington stated that on the morning of December 9th, 1981, he went to the scene to report on it--and no police were present. This backs up prior claims that police did not handle the crime scene properly.
In 1999, Arnold Beverly confessed to killing Officer Faulkner. This confession is validated by a lie detector test administered by eminent polygraph expert Charles Honts. Despite concrete evidence supporting this confession, the Philadelphia District Attorney has refused to investigate, and the courts have not even allowed it to be heard. The injustice continues . . .
On December 18th, 2001, Judge Yohn issued a decision on the Habeas Corpus petition in Federal District Court. He upheld Mumia’s unjust conviction, but challenged the sentencing phase (the death sentence). This means there could be a new sentencing hearing after all appeals are resolved, but the only options are life in prison with no possibility of parole or another death sentence. This is not justice. There is massive evidence of Mumia’s innocence and he should be absolutely free. Mumia’s legal team filed an appeal of this decision in January of 2002. Mumia remains on death row until all appeals by both sides are heard. [Note that the upcoming November 9 hearing will now determine whether Mumia is sentenced to death or not — VOR ed.]
Judge Pamela Dembe’s November 21, 2001, rejection of Mumia’s request to reopen the PCRA hearings was appealed by Mumia’s legal team. Judge Dembe based her decision almost entirely on the Peterkin case, which has just been overturned! On October 8, 2003, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected the appeal, stating that the Beverly confession cannot be heard due to time limitations. The court also stated that Terri Maurer-Carter’s testimony is irrelevant. The struggle continues.
A broad international movement has formed in support of Mumia. Celebrities such as Danny Glover, Ossie Davis, and Susan Sarandon, world leaders like Nelson Mandela, Danielle Mitterand (former First Lady of France), and Fidel Castro, governing bodies such as the Japanese Diet, 22 members of the British Parliament, and the European Parliament have all recognized the blatant injustice in this case and have called for a new trial at the very least. Millions of people throughout the world have taken to the streets to protest his unjust imprisonment.
Mumia’s case has been a unifying point for many social struggles because it concentrates issues vitally important to our future, such as the rise in prison populations, police brutality, the death penalty, persecution of political dissent, and the continuation of white supremacy and racism in the U.S. From death row, Mumia has continued to speak out for all who are oppressed through his journalism. He has published four books, and his weekly columns are published throughout the world. His case is one of the most important social justice fights of our time.
Write To Mumia: [TOP]
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) sponsored a Justice for Oscar Grant Rally October 23 at Oakland City Hall in California. Grant was an African American youth shot and killed by Oakland transit police while he was face down on the ground about to be handcuffed. Broad rebellions and persistent actions expressing outrage over this racist police killing meant one policeman involved was charged. He was found guilty of manslaughter and now faces sentencing. The ILWU together with many others organized to demand maximum sentencing of 14 years as the minimum of justice in this case. They issued the call No Work Today! Justice For Oscar Grant! And successfully closed the Bay Area ports. They were joined by the Oakland Education Association, SEIU 1021, CUE-IBT UCB, UBC 713 and rank and file members of BART ATU 1555. A video of the rally can be seen at http://blip.tv/file/4297389. The court gave a sentence of two years, which was met with demonstrations by Grant's supporters.
We reprint below a recent article by ILWU activist Jack Heyman.
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Emotions ran high when longshoremen at their July membership meeting were addressed by Cephus Johnson, the uncle of Oscar Grant, the young Black man who was killed by a cop at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland on New Year’s Day 2009. Recounting the sidewalk mural in the front of the hiring hall near Fisherman’s Wharf that depicts two strikers lying face down with the inscription, “Two ILA (longshoremen) Shot in the Back, Police Murder,” he appealed to the union to support justice for his slain nephew. He said, “That mural shook me because that’s exactly what happened to Oscar.”
It got even hotter in the union hall when Jack Bryson took the mike. He is the father of two of Oscar Grant’s friends terrorized by police at the train station as they sat handcuffed and helpless watching their friend die and hearing him moan. Bryson reported that police were calling for a rally the following Monday in the lily-white suburb of Walnut Creek to demand that Johannes Mehserle, the convicted killer cop, go free. He asked the union members to join Oscar Grant supporters to protest the cop rally and they did. Outnumbering the 100 or so pro-Mehserle demonstrators by 3 to 1.
The New Year’s Day horror scene was videotaped by other young train passengers and broadcast on YouTube and TV news across the country. Grant, the father of a 4-year-old girl, worked as a butcher’s apprentice at Farmer Joe’s supermarket nearby on Fruitvale Avenue. The litany of police killings of innocent young Black and Latino men has evoked a public outcry in California. Yet, when it comes to killer cops, especially around election time, with both the Democratic and Republican parties espousing law and order, the mainstream media either expunges or whitewashes the issue.
Angered by the pro-police rallies and news coverage calling for killer cop Mehserle’s freedom, Local 10 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union has called for a labor and community rally on Saturday, October 23, in Oakland to demand justice for Oscar Grant and the jailing of killer cops. Bay Area ports will shut down that day to stand with the Black community and others against the scourge of police brutality.
Anthony Leviege, a longshore union rally organizer, said: “Many unions, including the San Francisco and Alameda Labor Councils, have endorsed and are mobilizing for the rally. They see the need in the current economic crisis to build unity with the community to defend jobs, public education, health care and housing for all. And unions defending Black and Brown youth against police brutality is fundamental to that unity.
In this race-caste society, there’s nothing more controversial than a white cop convicted of killing a young Black man like Oscar Grant … or of a Black man like Mumia Abu-Jamal, framed by a corrupt and racist judicial system, accused of killing a white police officer when the opposite was the case. Jamal was nearly murdered by the police. His “crime” was that he did not die on the spot, as Oscar Grant did.
Mumia, the Frederick Douglass of our time, exposes the hypocrisy of democracy in America while fighting for his life on death row in Pennsylvania. His possibly final hearing is set for November 9. Killer cops belong in jail, their victims – those who survive like Mumia – should go free. But that is not how justice in capitalist America works. The racist heritage of slavery is still with us.
Despite the election of its first Black president, the United States has still not moved beyond the Supreme Court’s 1857 Dred Scott decision that “the Negro has no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” […]
Civil rights activists who were targets of racist attacks used to joke that the KKK wore white at night and blue in the daytime. Killer cop Mehserle was convicted of “involuntary manslaughter,” though the videotapes show him shooting Grant as he lay passively face down about to be handcuffed. The media universally has tainted outraged protesters, blaming them for rioting while favoring Mehserle whose sentencing hearing is set for November 5. During a recent Giants’ baseball game in San Francisco, Mehersle’s father was sympathetically interviewed on TV. But where is the justice for Oscar Grant’s family and his now 5-year-old daughter?
Labor Must Defend People of Color Against Racist Police Attacks
The police murder of two strikers provoked the 1934 San Francisco General Strike. Seven maritime workers in all were killed by police in West Coast ports during the strike for the union hiring hall. Every July 5, Bloody Thursday, all ports on the West Coast are shut down to honor the labor martyrs. It is a living legacy that burns deep in the hearts of longshore and other maritime workers.
Some have asked, what is the connection between unions and the killing of a young Black man? Plenty, according to Richard Washington, an Oakland longshoreman. He recalled the history of the longshore union and its struggle against the favoritism and racism of the “shape-up” hiring system that preceded the union hiring hall. At the start of the 1934 San Francisco Maritime Strike, he explained, Harry Bridges, head of the militant Strike Committee, appealed to the Black community. Strikers implored Blacks to support the strike and vowed to share work on the waterfront after their victory in the midst of the Great Depression when jobs were scarce, not unlike today. And Blacks were integrated on the docks, a shining example set by the San Francisco longshore local. The union has been fighting against racist attacks and for working class unity since then.
A wall mural in the union hiring hall depicts the Red Angel, Elaine Black, of the International Labor Defense (ILD) during the ‘34 Big Strike, which defended strikers. ILD has a rich history in the radical labor movement, originally headed up by James P. Cannon, an early leading communist. The ILD’s pioneering class struggle defense began with the mass labor demonstrations defending Italian immigrant workers Sacco and Vanzetti, uniting all of the labor movement regardless of political differences
In 2003, at the start of the U.S. war in Iraq, protesters in the port of Oakland and longshoremen were shot by Oakland riot police with “nonlethal” weapons. The U.N. Human Rights Commission condemned this police attack as “the most violent” police attack on antiwar demonstrators. Then-mayor Jerry Brown, now backed by the police in his bid for California governor, gave cops the green light. The rationale for the bloody attack was given by a spokesman for the state’s “anti-terrorism” agency newly formed by Democratic Governor Gray Davis and Attorney General Bill Lockyer. The spokesman for the California Anti-Terrorism and Information Center said that anyone demonstrating against a war against terror could be a terrorist themselves. The OPD attack cost the city of Oakland a couple of million dollars when the dust settled.
ILWU longshoremen have given up a day’s wages time and again to show solidarity with dockworkers in Liverpool, England, Charleston, South Carolina, and Australia and to protest with dock actions on issues of the day like apartheid in South Africa, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, in defense of innocent death row prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal and recently the Israeli military killing of civilians bringing aid to Gaza by boat.
Now, the ILWU is calling on unions to link up with community organizations under their banner, “An Injury to One is an Injury to All.” From all accounts it is a clarion call that will muster thousands fed up with the economic crisis and the scapegoating of minorities.
Jack Heyman, a working longshoreman, sits on the executive board of ILWU Local 10 and the board of directors of the John Brown Society. He has been active in all of the union’s struggles mentioned in this article. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org