watched in horror as Philly cops attacked the march for Mumia
As a thousand supporters of African American political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal were concluding an orderly and spirited national march on Dec. 8, dozens of Philadelphia police, without warning, brutally attacked the demonstrators.
Community activists are calling for an independent investigation of the vicious and unprovoked attack and are demanding that charges be immediately dropped against all those arrested.
According to eyewitness reports and video footage, police on bicycles charged into the rear of the demonstration soon after marchers turned onto Walnut, heading toward the Ethical Society where the ending rally was to take place.
Eight protesters were arrested. Most were charged with serious felonies including assault of a police officer, rioting, conspiracy to riot and a number of misdemeanors. Three of those arrested needed hospitalization. The combined bail of those arrested amounted to an astounding $350,000.
The cops most notably singled out a Vietnamese woman activist, Hai Au Huynh, who is 5'3" and weighs under 100 pounds. Police reportedly pushed Au Huynh so hard to the ground that she temporarily lost consciousness.
Although she was standing when she was arrested, between the time she was arrested and when she was released the following evening, Au Huynh suffered a broken tailbone.
Despite this savage attack, Au Huynh is reported to be in good spirits and upbeat. Her bail was set at $8,000. The district attorney attempted to set the bail even higher, but he was unsuccessful.
Three police officers pushed another young protester to the ground. Then one of the cops pulled out his gun and pointed it at the youth's neck.
Horrified protesters surrounded the cops, chanting, "Let him go!" and, "Shame, shame." The cop then pointed his gun at the youth's supporters. The protesters remained united and defiant.
This reporter then saw at least seven police vehicles pull up to the scene with sirens blaring--filled with cops who had their billy clubs and guns drawn. These cops surrounded a large number of the demonstrators.
Considering how quickly these other cops arrived it was obvious to many that this ambush was planned, not spontaneous.
This is the first time in recent memory that a Philadelphia protest in support of Mumia Abu-Jamal was physically attacked in public.
Besides Au Huynh, here is a confirmed list of others who were arrested:
Daniel Valme is a Haitian man from New York City whose bail was set at $50,000. He was the last person to be released.
Heather Strausberger and Matthew Warfield are activists from Baltimore. Strausberger's bail was set at $80,000. Videotaped footage showed her being dragged by the cops with her skin exposed. She was choking. She also had to be hospitalized before she was released. Warfield's bail was set at $68,000 because he was accused of being the "instigator" of the "riot."
Teishan Latner works with the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His bail was set at $10,000.
Jeffrey Daitson is an activist from Chicago. He had the highest bail--$100,000--supposedly because of prior arrests.
Two others were arrested but were not charged. Tristan Ahtone is a member of the American Indian Movement in Texas. Ahtone issued a powerful statement on what he experienced on Dec. 8. He reported overhearing the cops say that they wanted to go after the main spokesperson of ICFFMAJ, Pam Africa.
Rev. Kabutzu Malone is a Buddhist from northern New Jersey.
Blaming the victims of police riot
The Dec. 9 Philadelphia Inquirer carried an article about the police attack that was thoroughly pro-cop. The article stated that the demonstrators provoked the "melee" and that all those arrested were from out of town. This is not true. Two of those arrested, Au Huynh and Latner, reside in Philadelphia.
Despite a consistent, bone-chilling rain, people from Philadelphia, as well as from around the country, came to demand the immediate release of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a political prisoner who has been languishing on Pennsylvania's death row for almost 20 years.
Before the 2:30 p.m. police attack, the protest had begun with a noon rally at City Hall. Speaker after speaker spoke about the significance of Abu-Jamal's case legally and politically.
Pam Africa from ICFFMAJ set the political tone for the day when she told the growing crowd that it was a victory that the demonstration was taking place despite the intimidating efforts of the Fraternal Order of Police to stop the march from happening.
Native activist Jason Corwin read a statement of solidarity with Mumia Abu-Jamal from another well known political prisoner: Leonard Peltier.
Other speakers included poet and Black Panther activist Zayid Muhammad; welfare rights activist Pat Albright; Olga San Miguel of the Vieques Support Campaign; Haitian labor activist Ray LaForest; Suzanne Ross from the New York Free Mumia Coalition; former South African political prisoner Dennis Brutus; Larry Holmes, a co-director of the International Action Center; Esperanza Martell from Pro-Libertad and others.
A highlight of the rally was the presence of a delegation from France. A number of them had met with Abu-Jamal Dec. 7 on death row at the SCI Greene unit in Waynesburg, Pa.
The delegation included the first Black African to be elected to the French Parliament, union leaders and members of the French Communist Party. Just recently, the Parisian City Council made Mumia Abu-Jamal an official citizen of Paris.
Another highlight of the rally was the appearance of Terri Maurer-Carter, a white stenographer who in 1982 overheard "hanging" Judge Albert Sabo make a Klan-like remark about Abu-Jamal's case. Sabo is the judge who sat on the bench during Abu-Jamal's sham of a trial that lead to his racist frame-up and eventual conviction.
Carter, in sworn testimony made this past spring, stated that she heard Sabo make this racist statement.
Carter told the Dec. 8 crowd that she thought that she was doing the right thing when she brought Sabo's biased remarks to the attention of other judges and court officials. She then proceeded to publicly apologize to Abu-Jamal for not "bringing this to the attention of the right people."
At 13th and Locust Streets, the site where Abu-Jamal's arrest took place 20 years ago on Dec. 9, a videotape was shown from a flat bed truck. The tape allowed everyone there to see and hear Arnold Beverly, a hit man for the mob, confess that he had killed Daniel Faulkner, the police officer Mumia was convicted of shooting.
Since the Common Pleas State Court refused to accept this confession as evidence proving Abu-Jamal's innocence, efforts are being made to get the confession out to the public.
Minutes after the videotape was shown, police attacked the demonstration.
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Action Center/Millions for Mumia
Two photos above are speaker from a French delegation. A number of them had met with Abu-Jamal Dec. 7 on death row at the SCI Greene unit in Waynesburg, Pa. The delegation included the first Black African to be elected to the French Parliament, union leaders and members of the French Communist Party. Just recently, the Parisian City Council made Mumia Abu-Jamal an official citizen of Paris.
Photos: Deirdre Griswold
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