Partisan Defense Committee Press Release
1 November 2006
Partisan Defense Committee P.O. Box 99, Canal Street Station, New York, NY 10013
Contact: Kevin Gilroy (212) 406-4252
Hundreds Rally Nationwide to Demand:
“Free Mumia Now! Mumia Abu-Jamal’s Life Is in Danger – Mobilize Now!
Mumia Abu-Jamal Is an Innocent Man! Abolish the Racist Death Penalty!”
In Chicago, Los Angeles, Oakland and New York City, hundreds rallied in October to demand freedom for death row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther Party member, a MOVE supporter and journalist known as the “voice of the voiceless,” who was framed up on false charges of killing a Philadelphia police officer on 9 December 1981. Rally organizers from the Partisan Defense Committee and Labor Black Leagues emphasized that Mumia’s fight is at a crucial juncture and that these rallies are intended as first steps towards building labor-centered mass united-front mobilizations to fight for Mumia’s freedom.
PDC spokesman Jonathan Piper told the October 13 Chicago rally that “Mumia’s case is on the fast track for what could be the final decision on whether he lives, dies, spends the rest of his life buried in prison, or gets more legal proceedings…. In 2001, federal judge William Yohn overturned the death sentence in the case, but upheld every aspect of Mumia’s conviction. The state is now appealing to reinstate the death penalty. Mumia is appealing to overturn his conviction…. But what the courts have refused to hear is the overwhelming evidence of Mumia’s innocence, including the confession of Arnold Beverly that he shot Officer Faulkner and that Mumia had nothing to do with the shooting.”
At the October 21 Oakland rally, Mumia’s sister Lydia Barashango spoke movingly about her brother’s life. Statements from Mumia’s son Jamal Hart, who was also framed up and is currently serving a 15½ year sentence, were read at the rallies. Pam Africa of the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal and Lynne Stewart spoke from the platform in New York. The rallies also raised money for Mumia’s legal defense.
On October 28 in New York, over 250 people at Harlem’s Salem United Methodist Church heard Partisan Defense Committee spokesman Rachel Wolkenstein, who along with Piper was an attorney for Mumia from 1995 to 1999, lay out the PDC’s program of class-struggle defense. Wolkenstein stated: “There is no way, given the determination of this state to execute Mumia, that he could be freed short of a mobilization that recognizes the depth of the hatred the state has for him.” Answering differences in strategy that were raised, Wolkenstein welcomed open debate, stating that such discussion is “a question of how best to fight forward for Mumia’s freedom, as part of the broader struggle for the liberation of us all.” The PDC’s national leaflet building for the rallies stated that a worldwide movement to free Mumia “must be revived and infused with a new strength and militancy built on the understanding that there is no justice in the capitalist courts. The PDC, a class-struggle legal and social defense organization associated with the Marxist Spartacist League, fights to mobilize the social power of the multiracial labor movement—those who create the wealth of this society and who can shut it down.”
Jose A. Arroyo, the Vice Chair of Section 115, TWU Local 100, addressed the Harlem rally. Tom Cowperthwaite, Labor Black League for Social Defense spokesman at the rally, received applause when he said that TWU Local 100’s strike last December was popular with working and poor people who agreed that “It’s about time the unions fought back.” Other labor speakers nationwide included Chicago’s Mike Elliot, Chair of UAW Local 551’s Education Committee. The Los Angeles rally on October 19 heard from Jesse Smith, President of the AFRAM SEIU Caucus-United Healthcare Workers-West, while in New York, a statement of solidarity from New York’s 1199 United Health Care Workers East/SEIU, stating that “we will continue to struggle with those who are fighting for Mumia’s freedom,” was read at the Harlem rally.
Leonard Riley, Jr., of the International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1422 in Charleston, sent a statement of support, also read at the Harlem rally, which said: “Coming from South Carolina and coming out of the ‘Charleston Five’ experience, I know first hand the full potential and extent to which the government will go to act against those that openly challenge their policies…. It was only through national and International solidarity of the labor movement that the Charleston 5 were eventually freed…. So We Can and We must use the collective forces of the Labor Movement to free this innocent man. Free Mumia now!”
Rally organizers in Harlem pointed to a full-page ad by the PDC in New York’s Amsterdam News (October 26) that carried hundreds of signatures from the U.S. and around the world under the statement: “We Demand the Immediate Freedom of Mumia Abu-Jamal, an Innocent Man.” The statement has been signed by hundreds of labor activists and prominent individuals, such as Nobel Prize winner Nadine Gordimer, Harvard University’s Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Cindy Sheehan of Gold Star Families for Peace, author Michael Eric Dyson, New York City councilman Charles Barron and Illinois congressman Danny K. Davis. The PDC announced that this statement will also appear in the Chicago Defender and The Nation, and that a fuller list of signatories is available on the PDC’s website: www.partisandefense.org.
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The PDC is a class-struggle, non-sectarian legal and social defense organization which champions cases and causes in the interest of the whole of the working people. This purpose is in accordance with the political views of the Spartacist League.