Solidarity for Mumia
in 6 U.S. cities, 8 countries
By John Catalinotto
In at least five U.S. cities outside Philadelphia and at least eight other countries demonstrations in solidarity with Mumia Abu-Jamal took place aimed at bringing attention to the latest court hearing May 17 and winning the political prisoner a new trial on the way toward freeing him.
In Ankara, Turkey's capital and Istanbul, its biggest city, activists protested against the United States for imprisoning Mumia unfairly for 25 years. The group included academics, journalists, human right activists and also correspondents of the daily Evrensel in front of the U.S. Embassy in Ankara and the Central Post office in Istanbul. They delivered a petition to the U.S. Embassy demanding a fair trial for Mumia Abu-Jamal.
The Cleveland Lucasville Five Defense Committee demonstrated during rush hour downtown. Signs called for the freedom of Abu-Jamal and the Lucasville Five, innocent men who face execution in Ohio in relation to the 1993 Lucasville prison uprising, and demanded "Justice for Aaron Steele." Steele, a 23-year old African-American bus mechanic, died May 8 after being shot multiple times by Cleveland police. Passersby grabbed hundreds of newsletters on Mumia's case. Other Mumia supporters had held a protest during the morning rush hour.
Members of the San Diego International Action Center and the San Diego Mumia Coalition gathered at a busy community intersection and distributed newsletters and other material on Mumia's case to workers on their way home from work in the evening commute. Several motorists pulled over to get more details on Mumia's struggle. Poet Jim Moreno read his Ode to Mumia for the assembled activists.
Organized in only one week, a broad-base of labor and community activists joined to support a May 17 press conference and protest in Milwaukee demanding a new trial for political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Speakers from Africans on the Move, AFSCME Local 82, Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), International Action Center-Milwaukee, the National Lawyers Guild, Pan African Revolutionary Socialist Party, Peace Action-Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Green Party spoke in downtown Milwaukee at the Henry Reuss Federal Plaza.
Prior to the May 17 action IAC-Milwaukee organizer Bryan G. Pfeifer was invited to speak about the struggle surrounding Mumia Abu-Jamal's case on "The Eric Von" show hosted by African American radio journalist Eric Von and "The Word Warriors Report," hosted by African American City Councilman Michael McGee Jr.
In Houston, in the execution capital of the country, where 16 executions are scheduled over the summer, anti-death penalty activists were fired up by the strong turnouts at two demonstrations. Outside the criminal courthouse, notorious for sending Shaka Sankofa, Frances Newton and Joseph Nichols to the execution chambers, demonstrators faced down a phalanx of cops in riot gear, mounted police and undercover cops everywhere that outnumbered the protesters 10-1. "Maybe they thought Mumia was joining us," said one of the organizers.
In the afternoon from 4-6 p.m. there was another militant demonstration and rally, this one showing unity among young and older and Black, Latin@, Asian and white protesters from the Nation of Islam, the National Black United Front, the New Black Panther Party--whose youth distributed almost 600 of the Mumia newspapers--the Anarchist Black Cross, Code Pink, World Can't Wait, gay activist/leader Ray Hill, the Revolutionary Communist Party, Zapatista supporters who just returned from meeting Zapatistas with La Otra Campana across the border, the director of S.H.A.P.E. Center where the Movement to Abolish the Death Penalty is based, the leader of the Venezuela Solidarity Committee and others as every group took the microphone.
In San Francisco over 300 people rallied in front of the federal building to demand that Mumia Abu-Jamal be set free, in an action sponsored by the locally-based Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal. A broad coalition of students, union members, community activists and prisoner advocates spoke out, including Rudy Corpuz, Jr. and other members of United Playaz, who linked the fight to free Mumia with the everyday reality of repression and racism in the Black and Brown communities of the Bay Area.
Kiilu Nyasha, a local activist and former Black Panther Party member, delivered a solidarity statement to the crowd on behalf of the San Francisco 8 who are former BPP members and community activists who were arrested this spring and charged with the 1971 killing of a San Francisco policeman. Cristina Gutierrez of Barrio Unido called upon the crowd to unite to “change this system. His freedom is our freedom. His life is our life.” Judy Greenspan spoke at the rally representing Workers World Party as well as Gloria LaRiva from the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five.
Native political prisoner Leonard Peltier's statement to Mumia was read from the podium in Milwaukee, Houston and other cities.
Cihan Celik in Istanbul, Susan Danann, Bob McCubbin, Bryan G. Pfeifer, Gloria Rubac and Judy Greenspan contributed to this article.