Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Save the Life of Mumia Abu-Jamal – victim of racist capitalist justice by Emma Lewis

Activism is not a part- time activity but a lifetime commitment” Mumia Abu-Jamal addressing a public meeting in London in June from his cell in death row".

Mumia was born in 1954 and given the slave name Wesley Cook. At 14 with a group of other young men he founded the Philadelphia branch of the Black Panther Party(BPP). Still only a teenager he started writing for the party newspaper. In 1968 when the state assassinated Chicago Panthers Fred Hamilton and Mark Clarke, Mumia wrote about the crime. Gradually the state incarcerated or assassinated a whole generation of political activists.

Mumia eventually resigned from the BPP due to factionalism, fomented by government infiltrators. He became a supporter of the Move Organisation the predominantly black back to nature group led by John Africa which refused to join “the system” Inevitably Move became the focus of police attention and brutality. Its members were arrested hundreds of times on trumped up charges. On August 8th 1978 the police laid siege to a Move house ands opened fire . One officer was killed apparently by “friendly fire”.

At the City Hall later that day , as a reporter, Mumia asked the Mayor all the “wrong” questions – “Who has fired the first shot” “Why had the crime scene been destroyed so hastily and so completely ?” – until at last the Mayor shouted “They (the people) believe what you write and what you say – and its got to stop.”Nine move members were arrested, tried for conspiracy and third degree murder and sentenced to between 30 and 100 years.

Due to his sympathetic coverage of Move and the investigation of the police Mumia lost his job as a radio journalist. He got a job as a cab driver and on 9th December 1981 had just dropped a client off and was waiting for another when he heard what sounded like a gunshot and saw people running. He recognised one of them as his brother Billy Cook and ran towards him.

Suddenly he saw a police officer aim a gun at him and fire; Mumia fell. When he regained consciousness’ he was surrounded by police, and saw a policeman lying on the pavement. Mumia was then beaten by the police and thrown into a police wagon. After hours of driving around the city – presumably because they were hoping he would die of his wounds – the police finally took Mumia to hospital where he was again beaten.

The trial was a farce: witnesses changed their statements, vital evidence was suppressed and death threats were made against the legal team. The “bullet fragment” removed from officer Faulker’s fatal wound disappeared and the description in the ballistics report does not match the photograph. Mumia was saddled with an incompetent court appointed lawyer. The rabidly racist judge ensured there was no chance of Mumia getting justice . He was convicted of a crime he did not commit and has remained on death row for the last 30 years.

In 2001 Arnold Beverley confessed that he and an accomplice had been hired to kill Faulkner by corrupt police officers, because Faulkner was an obstacle to their pay off racket in downtown Philadelphia. In his signed confession he states clearly that “Jamal was not involved “

It is clear that the state wanted Mumia dead because of his political views and radical investigative journalism and had been trying to frame him for some time. In 1991, 700 pages of Mumia’s FBI file were released and revealed that the state had considered framing Mumia for the murder of the Governor of Bermuda as early as 1973 – Mumia had never even been to Bermuda.

Mumia ‘s case is on appeal before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the US Court of Appeal for the Third Circuit. At stake is whether Mumia will be executed or granted a new trial. Two years ago the federal court found that the original trial judge had misled the jury, rendering the trial constitutionally unfair. But in January 2010 the Supreme Court voided the ruling and ordered the case to be reviewed again by the court of appeal. The prosecution filed its opening brief in April. Mumia submitted his brief on 28th July 2010.

Mumia has been on death row for nearly 30 years. In all that time the state has failed to destroy his spirit , his humanity and his extraordinary intellect. He remains a champion of the oppressed and a voice for justice.

Emma Lewis

The Free Mumia Abu Jamal Defence Campaign UK
E mail

First published on Fight Racism Fight Imperialism

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