Time to take action
to free Mumia
Moorehead speaks at D.C. conference
D.C. March 31, 2001
200 activists, mainly from the East Coast, attended the Free Mumia
Conference in Washington, D.C., March 31 to take up strategies
and tactics to help build broad political support in the struggle
to free African American political prisoner and revolutionary
journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, who sits on death row in Pennsylvania.
the May 11-13 Camp Free Mumia Now initiative in Philadelphia,
other actions discussed at the conference included mobilizing
for Abu-Jamal's first day in federal court before Judge William
Yohn, the May 12 international day of actions to Free Mumia, a
June march to the United Nations to raise Abu-Jamal's case, and
organizing Free Mumia brigades at the anti-FTAA protests in Québec
and at the border crossings April 20-21.
sent a taped greeting to the conference. In it, he focused on
the importance of linking up the anti-globalization struggle with
the struggle of oppressed peoples everywhere against capitalist
following are excerpts of remarks given by Monica Moorehead at
the conference's Saturday morning plenary session. Moorehead is
a national leader of the International Action Center and a member
of the national coordinating committee in defense of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Besides the IAC, the NCC includes representatives from International
Concerned Friends and Family of Mumia Abu-Jamal, New York Free
Mumia Coalition, Refuse and Resist, Mobilization to Free Mumia,
Academics for Mumia and others.
We can't give long speeches here. So let me weigh in on what I
think is important right now. The first thing is let's not sit
around waiting for Judge Yohn to make a ruling. Organize a demonstration,
a teach-in, a sit-in, do something. But don't wait for Yohn. Pay
attention to what Yohn is doing but don't wait for him to act.
we started running a betting pool on when Yohn is going to make
a ruling, I would bet $5 that he will rule within the next 60
days. As a matter of fact, I would have bet the same $5 one year
ago that the ruling was going to come down in the spring of 2000.
And sisters and brothers, I would have lost my five bucks and
this is the only reason I would have bet five bucks in the first
yes, let's have our action plan ready for when Judge Yohn does
whatever he is going to do. But in the meantime, let's put our
bet on sure things and not things that may happen tomorrow, next
month, next year, whenever. Let's not surrender control of this
struggle to a judge. We need to find a way of taking control of
what is our greatest strength.
do we do this? How do we take control? The first thing we have
to understand is where our strength lies. For example, there are
a number of fronts in our struggle to free Mumia. One way of looking
at it is that there are two big main fronts--one of those fronts
is the legal battle. The legal briefs, legal arguments, the suppressed
evidence, the amicus briefs, the constitutional rights violations,
what is the next legal step, etc.
there is the mass struggle. Let's call that the ground war. The
struggle to mobilize the people. This concerns things such as
when are we going to fill Madison Square Garden again or possibly
Yankee Stadium, or shut down every campus in the country, or maybe
every campus on every one or two continents, when are we marching,
where are we marching to, what building are we going to take over,
these two fronts dependent on each other? The legal front and
the ground war? Of course they are. Should the soldiers in our
army whose primary assignment is to follow the legal front be
constantly strategizing with other soldiers whose primary assignment
is planning the ground war? Of course they should.
here is the difference, sisters and brothers. I think that we
all know this. But sometimes we need to remind ourselves of this
difference and I think now is one of those times. On which of
these fronts can people like us make the biggest difference?
tomorrow morning all of us opened up our mail and to our amazement,
somebody sent you a law degree from Harvard University with your
name on it, and a license to practice law in the state of Pennsylvania,
and because of that, overnight Mumia now had a legal team of about
a thousand new lawyers ready to lay siege to the courts of Philadelphia,
would that help us? Maybe. I don't know.
one thing I do know. And that is that it would not be decisive.
Now just suppose if the same one thousand of us who just became
lawyers tossed that law degree in the garbage, and focused our
attention on organizing the ground war. The war that would touch
millions if not billions of people on a global scale, the ground
war that can mobilize tens of thousands, perhaps millions in our
battle to tell the bourgeoisie that if you even try to execute
Mumia, you will spark social unrest that will make the 1960s look
like a picnic.
that's more likely to be decisive. The moral here is yes, let
us all stay abreast of the legal developments in this case. Let
us all become familiar with Mumia's legal situation. Let us be
able to explain it to people who ask us. That is important.
in the final analysis, we had better excel in that front of the
struggle that we can execute some control over. And sisters and
brothers, that is the ground war.
of the ground war, let's try a different tactic for the weekend
of May 12, when we will be descending on Philadelphia. One of
the great things about a protracted struggle is that it enables
our movement to try different tactics. Sometimes many tactics
simultaneously. Sometimes we go to the big demonstrations in Washington
or Philadelphia or San Francisco in the early morning and then
in the late afternoon, we get back on the bus and go home that
same day. And that's okay.
sometimes, we can go to the big protest and bring a sleeping bag
or a tent or a pillow and lots of food and water and stay there
over night. Several nights. Sometimes you can stay for weeks,
if not months.
tactic goes by many names. You can call it an encampment. You
can call it an occupation. You can call it a vigil. You can call
it a sit-in. But whatever you call it, it is the same thing. People
staying to make a point.
why not stay in Philadelphia on the weekend of May 12 for a few
days. And set up something like a camp. Let's call it Camp Free
Mumia Now! Right in front of City Hall. Starting on Friday May
11 through Saturday and into Sunday, May 13.
we do this, I wouldn't be surprised if a whole lot of people from
all over the country take up a residency in Camp Free Mumia Now
on the weekend of May 12.
I think it will send a message to the Philadelphia establishment
that says: Do you want to disregard our movement?You want to underestimate
us? Dismiss us? You question our resolve? Our capabilities? Our
militancy and our determination to do what is necessary to win
this struggle? So what we are doing this weekend is just a little
taste of what we are prepared to do to free Mumia.
borrow a phrase the rebellious Attica prisoners used 30 years
ago because they were slaughtered by [New York Gov. Nelson] Rockefeller's
storm troopers, "This will be the sound before the fury."
On to the building of Camp Free Mumia Now!