Mumia Abu-Jamal Rally on April 24 Spotlights May 17 Oral Arguments

On April 24 in Philadelphia, hundreds gathered to support black death-row journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of killing white Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner in a 1982 trial that Amnesty International has deemed unfair (see report).

At noon, supporters organized a “Honk for Mumia” at City Hall (photos), then in the evening, supporters gathered a few blocks away, for a guest speakers and a viewing of Framing an Execution. Guest speakers included Danny Glover, Sonia_Sanchez, Linn_Washington, Jr., Ramona_Africa, and Sgt. Delacy_Davis of Black Cops Against Police Brutality.

April 24 also marked the release of a new website and newspaper published by “Journalists for Mumia,” unveiling for the first time in the US, a newly discovered crime scene photo from Dec. 9, 1981 that reveals police manipulation of ballistics evidence. The photo has already been published in the new German book on Mumia’s case (see review and interview).

The April 24 events publicized the upcoming oral arguments before the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia on May 17, for which, supporters are organizing a mass demonstration (flier). The court will consider four different issues that have been certified for appeal, and then decide whether to grant a new trial, affirm the life sentence, or re-instate the death sentence.

After the May 17 date was set for oral arguments, the Philadelphia DA filed a motion asking the entire Third Circuit Court to recuse itself from the case. Mumia’s attorney felt the DA’s move was meant to delay the hearings, and to move the case to a more conservative circuit. On April 20, the court ruled in favor of Abu-Jamal in two ways. The court (1) ruled against the recusal and (2) agreed to give each side one full hour to present their arguments.

The evening event at the Friends Center (a few blocks from City Hall) was met by over a hundred police officers protesting the event for Mumia, which was a culmination of recent intimidation tactics by the Fraternal Order of Police. A benefit event in New York City had to change locations after extensive NYPD harassment. A NYPD website later boasted that the rally was “Bitch Slapped”. Then, the April 24 event in Philadelphia had to change locations after police intimidation, has documented by journalist Linn Washington, who noted that the “anti-Abu-Jamal barrage of emails and telephone calls unleashed on the Clef Club included declarations perilously close to terroristic threats.”

The Fraternal Order of Police and their allies have continued to target the French cities that have honored Mumia. In 2003, he was declared an honorary citizen of Paris — the first time since Pablo Picasso was similarly honored in the 1970s. Then last year on April 24, the Paris suburb St. Denis named a major street after Abu-Jamal. Located in the Cristino Garcia District of the city (named after an anti-Franco Spanish Republican), Rue Mumia Abu-Jamal leads directly to the largest sports arena in Europe: “Nelson Mandela Stadium.” Government resolutions were passed condemning France, criminal charges were filed against the French cities, and the FOP has continued to harass representatives that did not vote for the anti-Mumia resolutions.

In response, Mumia supporters have launched several campaigns: faxing letters for Mumia to U.S. House of Reps, circulating a letter demanding that John Conyers of the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary open formal hearings to reconsider the House Resolution, and contacting Donald Payne (recently harassed by the FOP) to thank him for not voting for the resolution.

Also, two new academic papers have been written on Mumia by Tameka L. Cage and Paul Robeson Ford.

Hans Bennett is a Philadelphia-based photo-journalist who has been documenting the movement to free Mumia Abu-Jamal and all political prisoners for over five years. Read other articles by Hans, or visit Hans's website.