Posted July 11, 2002

20 years after racist sentencing
Protesters say
'Free Mumia Now'

By Betsey Piette
Philadelphia

Hundreds of protesters marched and rallied in Center City July 4 demanding freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal on the 20th anniversary of his death sentence. Braving the extremely high heat, the demonstration marched from the starting rally at City Hall down Market Street to a closing rally at the Liberty Bell, where earlier in the day U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell had been awarded Philadelphia's annual Liberty Medal.

At the opening rally, Pam Africa from International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal welcomed the demonstrators, a number of whom traveled from as far away as Chicago and San Francisco.

The demonstration stopped for a brief street rally at 12th and Market streets, outside a hotel where Powell was speaking at a $150-per-plate luncheon. Monica Moorehead of Millions for Mumia and the International Action Center addressed the gathering to explain why Powell was not deserving of this award. As she exposed Powell's murderous military career, people walking by on the streets stopped to listen and some even joined the march.

Rally organizers decided to challenge the hypocrisy of Powell receiving an award that recognized "an individual ...who had demonstrated leadership and vision in the pursuit of liberty of conscience; or freedom from oppression, ignorance, or deprivation" by awarding their own "Liberation Awards" to individuals truly deserving of the honor.

Linda Richardson of Philadelphia's Black United Fund was recognized for her courage in standing up to public pressure and major cuts in donor support to her organization when she would not back down in providing technical assistance to ICFFMAJ.

BUF has had to temporarily close its office and lay off staff, seriously jeopardizing their ability to provide support to Philadelphia's African American community, but Richardson explained that the group was determined to stand its ground and would fight to reopen. The rally appealed for donations to be sent to the Black United Fund, 2227 N. Broad St., Phila del phia, PA 19132.

A Liberation Award was also represented to Lynne Stewart, New York political activist and lawyer indicted by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft for allegedly breaking "special administrative measures" in representing her client, Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman.

Special recognition was given to 96-year-old civil rights and anti-war activist Louise Franklin-Ramirez. She was arrested three years ago at a demonstration for Abu-Jamal.

Susan Abulhawa, a local Palestinian activist, was awarded the final Liberation Award for devoting her energies to raising awareness of the struggle of the people of Palestine against occupation and for liberation of their land. Abulhawa, who traveled to Palestine in April and brought back eyewitness accounts of the massacres at the Jenin refugee camp, dedicated her award to the children of Palestine.

The closing rally was addressed by Sam Jordan of ICFFMAJ, who gave an update on Abu-Jamal's legal case; Native activist Jason Corwin; Yoomi Jeong from the Korea Truth Commission; Teresa Gutierrez, New York coordinator of the National Committee to Free the Five Cuban Political Prisoners Held in the United States; Clark Kissinger from Refuse & Resist!; and a representative from the Millions for Reparations Committee.

 



Photos: Deirdre Griswold

Top, Pam Africa speaks at rally, above Pam Africa give Liberation Award to 96-year-old activist Louise Franklyn-Ramirez

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