Partisan Defense Committee Press and Photo Release
28 April 2008
Partisan Defense Committee P.O. Box 74575, Los Angeles, CA 90094-0575
Contact: Sheri Stoll (213) 380-8897
April 26 Protest Says: Free Mumia, an Innocent Man!
Over 100 trade unionists, students, death penalty abolitionists, anti-racist activists and socialists demonstrated on Saturday, April 26, at the Westwood Federal Building around the slogans: “Mumia Abu-Jamal Is Innocent! Free Mumia Now! Abolish the Racist Death Penalty!” This protest was called in response to the March 27 ruling by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld Mumia’s racist frame-up conviction. Initiated by the Partisan Defense Committee (PDC) and Labor Black League for Social Defense (LBL), the Los Angeles protest for Mumia’s freedom was part of a series of united-front demonstrations called by the PDC and its fraternal defense organizations internationally held from April 19 to 26 in Oakland, Chicago, Toronto and around the world from London to Mexico City to Sydney, Australia. These united-front protests won endorsements from over 300 individuals, organizations and trade unions representing hundreds of thousands of workers. An April 19 protest initiated by the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal in Philadelphia drew over 600 people. The PDC and LBL-organized Class-Struggle Contingent in the Philadelphia protest drew some 150 people, including trade unionists from NYC’s powerful Transport Workers Union Local 100. The contingent marched under the slogans, “Mumia Abu-Jamal Is Innocent! Free Mumia Now! Abolish the Racist Death Penalty! There Is No Justice in the Capitalist Courts! Mobilize Labor’s Power—For Mass Protest!”
Among the endorsers of the L.A. protest were United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) as well as other local labor organizations such as United Steelworkers (USW) Local Union 675. Additional endorsers included the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) Los Angeles Chapter, former Black Panther leaders Elaine Brown and David Hilliard, the Pan African Union at Cal State University Dominguez Hills and the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (SF8), which is defending eight former Black Panthers who are now being dragged through the courts on frame-up charges of killing a cop that had been dismissed 30 years ago. Henry Walton’s Labor Review program on radio station KPFK helped publicize the demonstration. UCLA students marched to the rally from the nearby campus, kicking off the protest. Chanting “Labor has the power to make the courts bow! Mumia is innocent! Free him now!” and “Mumia, Mumia must go free! Down with the racist death penalty!” demonstrators made clear their determination to fight against the court’s ruling, which will either result in a new death sentence or life in prison hell.
Flanked at the podium by several fellow unionists, Rosie Martinez, chairperson of the Latino Caucus of SEIU Local 721, said, “The Latino Caucus of SEIU 721 stands in solidarity with the demand to free Mumia Abu-Jamal, a political prisoner who speaks the truth about capitalism and the oppression of the working class. We in the labor movement know the racist capitalists try to divide and oppress workers here in the United States and worldwide.” She continued, “We in the labor movement know how our legal rights and justice are denied in the court system. We in the labor movement know the death penalty serves the racist capitalists by subjugating our brothers and sisters and incarcerating them…. Our call is to free Mumia! End the racist death penalty! End the attacks on immigrants! Decent affordable housing for all! Free healthcare for all! Education based on the need of the people and a just and equal society!”
An innocent man, Mumia was framed up for his political views, his former Black Panther Party membership, and his support of the Philadelphia MOVE organization. “The ruling class has had its sights on silencing Mumia for a long time,” explained the Spartacus Youth Club speaker, Wyolette. “When he was 14 years old, he was brutally beaten by the police for fighting racist injustice; that was when he looked to the Black Panther Party. There he began to develop his skills for speech and the written word in the midst of COINTELPRO repression, committing his life to exposing the brutal crimes of racist American capitalism. This was more than enough to make Mumia a marked man in the eyes of the bourgeoisie. The Democrats and Republicans want to make an example out of Mumia, who represents the spectre of black revolt.”
“Mumia was known as the ‘voice of the voiceless’ because he spoke out against the police repression, the corruption, the discrimination against people of color, the class war that was going on, U.S. imperialism,” remarked James Lafferty, executive director of the Los Angeles NLG. “So of course the powers that be wanted to silence him, to silence the ‘voice of the voiceless.’ They rigged murder charges and they gave him something that resembled a trial about as much as Alice in Wonderland.”
Underlining that there is no justice in the capitalist courts, LBL spokesman Benny Montgomery angrily noted that the New York City cops who killed Sean Bell in cold blood just walked free. He continued, “Mumia’s frame-up is not an ‘accidental miscarriage of justice.’ In this political frame-up, the state is keeping blacks submerged in oppression, and attacking the whole of the working population.” Numerous speakers, including Blase Bonpane, director of Office of the Americas, expressed their outrage over the NYC cops’ acquittal. Reverend Richard Byrd told the crowd, “35% of young black men between the ages of 19 and 29 are incarcerated or in some way involved in the criminal injustice system. That’s a lynching. Sean Bell, shot at with 50 bullets—no justice for Sean Bell!”
“The labor movement must get involved,” emphasized Jesse Smith, president of the African American Caucus of SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West. He told the crowd, “We support fighting for justice and the innocence of Mumia Abu-Jamal.” Mumia’s innocence is proven by mountains of evidence—including the confession of Arnold Beverly that he, not Mumia, killed police officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981—but the courts have either rejected or ignored this. PDC speaker Diana Coleman stated, “You can see Arnold Beverly confessing on YouTube, but the courts won’t hear it. The Beverly evidence ties up all the loose ends in this case and shows what a blatant frame-up this is.”
Don White, coordinator of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador-L.A. (CISPES), reminded demonstrators that Mumia remains a powerful journalist whose commentaries regularly air on KPFK. Also speaking at the rally was Sherman Austin, founder of Raise the Fist Direct Action Network, who performed his hip-hop protest songs “Raise the Fist” and “Freedom.” Cailin Crockett, speaking for the UCLA Bruin Feminists for Equality, said that “this struggle for Mumia’s innocence, which is clearly proven, is…a human rights issue and it is a representation of the fundamental inequalities in this country.” Walter Lippmann, editor-in-chief of the online CubaNews, called for Mumia’s freedom and told demonstrators that the Spanish translation of Mumia’s book We Want Freedom is widely available in Cuba, where “Mumia’s case is followed closely. He is viewed as a leader and a teacher in the struggle for justice in the United States.” He also spoke in defense of the Cuban Five, victims of a political frame-up. Present at the protest, but not endorsing or speaking, were supporters of the Spark organization.
Solidarity statements were read at the rally from the Congress of South African Trade Unions-Western Cape, NLG executive director Heidi Boghosian, and Mumia’s son, Jamal Hart, who was targeted for his prominent activism in the campaign to free his father and sentenced in 1998 to 15-1/2 years on bogus firearms possession charges. A powerful speech by Mumia’s daughter, Goldii, given at the March 28 PDC/LBL emergency protest in New York City, was played to the demonstration. She called to continue the fight to free Mumia: “Mumia Abu-Jamal is guilty of nothing. He is an innocent man and his life is at stake by the state for nothing, because of his political beliefs….The evidence to prove that he is innocent is there. But they want to deny it because they are afraid of him, because of his eloquence, his intelligence.”
Warning against illusions in the capitalist Democratic Party, Spartacist League representative Don Cane noted, “If you are looking to the Democratic Party presidential candidates, Clinton or Obama, to save Mumia, you should know that they are both pro-death penalty. We place all our faith in the social power of the international working class.” He concluded, “Karl Marx once said, ‘Labor cannot emancipate itself in the white skin where in the black skin it is branded.’ We Spartacists have no division between words and deeds. Labor must champion freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal! This would give labor a sense of its own power. This fight to free Mumia is the fight for black liberation, the emancipation of labor, and it is part of the struggle for socialist revolution.”
The PDC’s Diana Coleman explained, “The reason that Mumia is facing death or life imprisonment is that the capitalist injustice system is intended to intimidate, silence and punish those who raise their voices and fight.” She added, “We look to the ‘supreme court of the masses,’ not to those black-robed reactionaries. The social power of labor, mobilized independently of the capitalist state and the capitalist politicians, Democrats and Republicans, must be mobilized behind Mumia’s cause based on the understanding that he is innocent and the victim of a racist, political frame-up.”
Photo caption one [LA_Mumia_Protest_SEIU_Speaker.jpg]: Los Angeles, April 26: Rosie Martinez, chairperson of the Latino Caucus of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 721, flanked by other union members, addresses demonstrators in front of the Westwood Federal Building at a united-front protest to free Mumia Abu-Jamal initiated by the Partisan Defense Committee and Labor Black League for Social Defense. [photo credit: Partisan Defense Committee]
Photo caption two [LA_Mumia_Protest1.jpg]: Los Angeles, April 26: Initiated by the Partisan Defense Committee and Labor Black League for Social Defense, a united-front protest to free Mumia Abu-Jamal drew over 100 demonstrators. [photo credit: Partisan Defense Committee]
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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.