On Monday, March 30th, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections came close to murdering Political Prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal. On that day Mumia was transferred from SCI Mahanoy to the Schuylkill Medical Center, suffering from diabetic shock. Mumia’s condition was the direct result of a denial of proper medical care to him over an extended period of time. Only Mumia’s strength, and that of his supporters allowed him to live through that day and those that have followed.
Had the Pennsylvania’s DOC been successful in it’s endeavor to forever silence Mumia, it would have dealt a serious blow to the movement for revolution in the USA. For over 40 years Mumia’s journalism has shone a light on the crimes of the capitalist state, it’s armed enforcers and its prison industrial complex.
With the above in mind, it is perhaps ironic that the commonwealth tried to silence Mumia twice in one day. In addition to Mumia’s near death experience, March 30th also saw a hearing in federal court to uphold the Revictimization Relief Act. The RRA, also know as the “Mumia Silencing Law” was signed into law by outgoing Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett on October 21st, 2014, after being rushed through the PA legislature. This law prevents prisoners in the PA prison system from issuing written or recorded statements such as articles or speeches, provided that these statements are construed to be causing the victim of their crimes emotional distress.
Let us be clear on one thing. Mumia Abu-Jamal is an innocent man. His trial was a farce and we support the immediate release of Mumia. Additionally, there is no question of Mumia causing the victim’s family distress, since he was not the one who shot and killed PPO Daniel Faulkner in December of 1981.
The above being said, on March 30th, U.S. Middle District Chief Judge Christopher C. Conner heard oral arguments from lawyers representing both the commonwealth and a number of PA inmates, including and especially Mumia. The hearing was held in PA state capitol in Harrisburg, and we in Serve the People-PHL were among the supporters observing the hearing in person.
The attorneys representing Mumia and his fellow inmates more than competently exposed the nature of the law. The RRA is a blatant violation of Mumia and his fellow inmates 1st Amendment rights, they argued. The commonwealth’s attorney made the absurd claim that Mumia’s writing’s and recorded commentaries constituted an “action” against Maureen Faulkner. In a sickening and desperate ploy to play on the emotions of Chief Judge Conner, the commonwealth’s attorney argued that an inmate who publishes an article or records a commentary that is read or viewed publicly is akin to a rapist calling their victim from prison to have a chat. Dwell on that for a moment and try not to vomit. There was no depth to which the attorney’s defending the RRA would not sink. Even Chief Judge Conner wasn’t buying this shit.
More than this, the commonwealth’s representative attempted to set a dangerous precedent. She argued that the RRA’s statues were applicable to a defendant in court proceeding who is awaiting trial. Think about that. Even if you have not been convicted of a crime you are still prevented from making public statements. Were the RRA to be interpreted and enforced in this way it would remove the fig leaf of due process in the US legal system. Defendants awaiting trial would not be able to proclaim their innocence publicly, leaving it to the DA’s office to control the narrative. Again, even the judge had a hard time swallowing this pill, perhaps because not even he could allow the PA legal system to be that blatantly fascist in it’s execution of “justice”.
The proceedings lasted for a little over an hour, with Chief Judge Conner to issue his ruling by the end of April. We in Serve the People-PHL need not wait that long. The RRA is an overt attempt to silence the voices of Pennsylvania’s inmate population, and in particular the law’s intended target, Mumia Abu-Jamal. Since Mumia’s days as the Minister of Information for the Philly Chapter of the Black Panther Party the commonwealth of Pennsylvania has been trying in vain to silence Mumia. They couldn’t do it with violence or with a frame up complete with a mock trial and a death sentence. They won’t silence him with the RRA. Mumia is fearless, a fact he has proven time and again throughout the course of his career, speaking for those who have no voice.
We in STP-PHL demand that the RRA be immediately overturned and that Mumia Abu-Jamal receive any and all medical treatment necessary for a full recovery from his present medical crisis, including and especially preventive care upon his return to SCI Mahanoy.
Overturn the RRA Immediately!
Freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal and All Political Prisoners!