“Brick by brick,” they roared in Philadelphia.
“Wall by wall,” they echoed in San Francisco and Atlanta.“We’re gonna free Mumia Abu-Jamal,”
reverberated from Australia to England.
Supporters of Abu-Jamal, recognized by millions around the world as a political prisoner framed for his beliefs, also pressed this vow in cities in Cuba, Spain, France, Canada, Italy, Denmark and Germany on May 11-13.More than 20,000 Cubans rallied to demand freedom for Abu-Jamal in the town of Bahia Honda, province of Pinar del Rio on May 12. The day before, Cuban television’s roundtable discussion featured a special segment about solidarity actions for Abu-Jamal in the United States.
Among the U.S. activists who participated by telephone were Monica Moorehead, Workers World Party leader who took part in the first such roundtable on Abu-Jamal’s struggle last June. She told Cuban viewers about the mobilizing efforts in Philadelphia for Camp Mumia. Jeff Mackler of the Mobilization for Mumia spoke of the upcoming march in San Francisco.“No justice, no peace, until Mumia is released,” promised those committed to winning Abu-Jamal’s freedom in cities across the United States and around the world. The ruling powers had best listen up to just how serious Abu-Jamal’s supporters are.
May 12 has become an international day of solidarity with Mumia Abu-Jamal for anti-racist and anti-death-penalty forces worldwide.
This May 13 was also the 16th anniversary of the murderous firebombing of the MOVE Organization—a majority Black communal group—by the Philadelphia authorities that massacred 11 women, men and children.
‘We might not leave next time!’A 48-hour “Camp Free Mumia” in the shadow of Philadelphia’s City Hall ratcheted up the struggle to free Abu-Jamal to a higher level.
It took a battle just to win the right to pitch tents in Dillworth Plaza in front of City Hall.
City officials had illegally denied a permit to camp in the plaza on the east side of City Hall. The city had granted the Republican National Convention a 10-day permit for the exact same site last August.
The Washington, D.C.-based Partnership for Civil Justice and the Philadelphia branch of the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of organizers of Camp Free Mumia.
The International Action Center and Camp Free Mumia won an impressive victory against the city and police when a federal judge in Philadelphia ordered municipal officials to provide a permit for the May 11-13 encampment.“The IAC successfully challenged the illegal and unconstitutional tactic of the city of Philadelphia in the city’s ongoing efforts to suppress the free speech rights of demonstrators,” said Mara Verheyden-Hillian, lead counsel in the lawsuit and member of Partnership for Civil Justice.
The event opened on the evening of May 11 with a hip-hop concert and a video teach-in.Two rallies brought scores of diverse Abu-Jamal supporters to the podium.
One thousand protesters assembled at the camp on May 12 and then marched through the downtown thoroughfares of Philadelphia. They were met by the cheers, applause and encouragement of many onlookers and motorists.The weekend occupation ended May 13 with a tribute to the fallen MOVE members.
It was an urban occupation that warned by its very presence that next time it might not leave. It was a warning that if the state tries to take Abu-Jamal’s life, his supporters could make Philadelphia and other major cities ungovernable.
‘We stand with Mumia!’In San Francisco, some 2,000 people marched and rallied May 12 to demand freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal. Demonstrators included many youths and organized groups including the Brown Berets, Students for Justice, MAJESTIC—Mumia Abu-Jamal’s Emancipative Stanford Team Instigating Change—and contingents from many campuses.The spirited and multi-national march wended its way through many San Francisco neighborhoods. Chants demanding Abu-Jamal’s freedom rang off surrounding buildings. Onlookers received information about the fight against racism and for Mumia.
The rally was broadcast live on KPFA, the Bay Area’s Pacifica radio network affiliate.Laura Herrera, Jeff Mackler and Cristina Vasquez of the Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, the group that initiated the march, co-chaired the rally along with John Parker of the Los Angeles International Action Center.One of Abu-Jamal’s new lawyers, Elliot Grossman, read a statement from the death-row prisoner.Three Cuban institutions sent solidarity messages to the San Francisco action. The Cuban National Union of Jurists’ statement said in part: “We condemn the U.S. government, which portrays itself as champion of human rights, yet condemns innocent people to death, keeping human beings under pressure and tension that constitutes a psychological war of extermination.
“What human rights is the U.S. government talking about when it commits the crime of racial discrimination, apartheid and xenophobia? We call for justice in the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who simply for being Black could be taken to the gates of death.”
The more than 50 speakers included San Francisco Labor Council Secretary-Treasurer Walter Johnson, Jackie Mishak of the San Diego Coalition to Free Mumia, former Black Panther and longtime Bay Area revolutionary activist Kiilu Nyasha, prisoner-rights activist Luis Talamantez, Howard Wallace of Service Employees Local 250 and Pride at Work, and recently released political prisoner Linda Evans.
Eyad Kishawi of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee drew the connections between the fight to free Mumia and the struggle for freedom and justice of the Palestinians and all oppressed people of the world.Gloria La Riva’s statement to the rally provoked emotional, militant responses from the demonstrators. The Workers World Party speaker said: “We stand with Mumia because he is an African American leader like so many others who has been targeted by the racist capitalist state for standing up, for being a voice of the voiceless. We stand with Mumia because he is the innocent victim of another racist cop frame-up.
“We stand with Mumia as we stand with the Palestinian people, with the Colombian people, with the people of Cuba. We stand with Mumia as we stand with our brothers and sisters who rebelled in the streets of Quebec against the imperialist world order and in the streets of Cincinnati against racist police.
“We stand with Mumia as we stand with all those around the world who are resisting the U.S. empire.”La Riva encouraged all who can to travel to Cincinnati for the June 2 convergence against racism, and to be in Washington, D.C., for the protests against Bush and the International Monetary Fund/World Bank beginning Sept. 29.The rally also featured many hip-hop performers down for Mumia, including Company of Prophets, Blackalicious and Naru.
‘Change only comes through struggle!’In Atlanta more than 100 spirited supporters of Abu-Jamal marked May 12 with a rally in downtown Woodruff Park and a march ending at the city jail.
The events were initiated by Atlanta Millions for Mumia and endorsed by over 30 organizations and individuals.American Indian Movement drummers opened the rally. Rally speakers established the common links that bind well-known political prisoners like Abu-Jamal with the millions of poor men, women and youths who fill this country’s jails and prisons.Speakers included Shakur Sunni-Ali from the International Committee to Support Iman Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, the Rev. Paul Turner of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Spelman College Professor M. Bahati Kuumba, and Reid Jenkins of the Atlanta Leonard Peltier Support Group.
Spoken word artists Natidred, Daa’iyah and Aziza won applause for their passionate words and political rhyme.Marching behind a bright red sound truck decorated with “Free Mumia” flags, the demonstrators stopped at the Richard Russell Federal Building. Jamila Levi spoke to the crowd there, explaining the legal status of Abu-Jamal’s case.The next stop on the march was the Fulton County Courthouse where hearings are currently being held in the upcoming death-penalty case of Jamil Al-Amin (formerly H. Rap Brown). At the rally there, demonstrators heard a rousing denunciation of the death penalty by Ed Brown, Al-Amin’s brother.
The protest ended in the shadow of the mammoth Atlanta City Jail where prisoners indicated their approval by knocking on the slitted windows.
Seventy-year-old community activist Carrie Morris challenged the mostly young crowd to “never give up.” Declaring with a strong voice that “change only comes from struggle,” this veteran of many marches and protests advised demonstrators to “get in the face” of the politicians and their big-business bosses to make their demands heard.
Includes reports by Gloria LaRiva, Tahnee Stair and Dianne Mathiowetz
From Leslie Feinberg