Time to take action to free Mumia
Monica Moorehead speaks at D.C. conference

Washington, D.C. March 31, 2001

Over 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.

Besides 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.

Abu-Jamal 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 oppression.

The 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.

If 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 place.

So 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.

How 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.

Second, 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, etc.

Are 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.

But 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?

If 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.

But 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.

Now 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.

But 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.

Speaking 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.

But 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.

This 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.

So 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.

If 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.

And 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.

To 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."

Free Mumia!
On to the building of Camp Free Mumia Now!

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