Mumia Abu-Jamal

Tom Condit tomcondit at
Tue Jun 6 09:53:28 MDT 1995

Maybe it's just my uncontrollable centrism, but I find myself
taking a middle ground on this Mumia Abu-Jamal v. the cops thing.

1.  Doug Henwood is right that the question of Abu-Jamal's guilt
or innocence is relevant to the case, but it's mainly relevant to
how you frame your arguments.  Major sectors of the left have a
predilection for making themselves look like total fools by going
around saying so-and-so was framed, or is innocent, etc., then
being left hanging muttering in the wind when the facts prove
otherwise.  Note, in particular, all those who thought Stalin was
such a nice guy and being maligned by the nasty bourgeois press.

2.  The major questions in the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, however,
are not whether he is guilty or innocent, but whether he got a
fair trial, and in particular whether he is on death row as
opposed to in prison (or out on parole by now) because of his
politics rather than his real or alleged crime.

3.  Moreover, it is the Pennsylvania "justice" system and the
death penalty which we are trying, not Mumia Abu-Jamal.  The very
fact that the judge who tried the original case can make the
decision on whether a new trial is called for is itself a
criminal act worthy of the death penalty for legal system which
commits it.  (As an aside, this is what happened to Sacco and
Vanzetti as well.  The law has since been changed in

4.  Capital punishment means that there are inevitably executions
of people whose guilt is in question.

5.  The current scheduled execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal is a
political act.  The Philadelphia police union has been
campaigning rabidly for Abu-Jamal's death and the suppression of
his writings and commentary.  Sen. Robert Dole was bragging here
in California after his lame attack on Hollywood about his role
in keeping Abu-Jamal's commentaries off National Public Radio.
The new governor of Pennsylvania was elected on a platform of
killing people as often as possible and with as little recourse
to judicial niceties as can be gotten away with.  In these
circumstances, as in those surrounding the case of Gary Graham in
Texas, a political campaign against the death penalty and for the
life of the condemned is a duty of the left.

For those in the San Francisco Bay Area, two more events on this
case are coming up:

Friday, June 9th, 4:30-5:30 pm
Demonstration at Federal Building
450 Golden Gate Ave., San Francisco
Sponsored by Bay Area Network for Mumia Abu-Jamal

There will be bannering and leafletting during the Friday morning
commute as well.   For info call 415-648-4505 or e-mail to
prisondesk at

Sunday, June 25, 7:30 pm
Benefit for Mumia Abu-Jamal Legal Defense Fund and KPFA radio
Martin Luther King Jr H.S.
Rose and Grant Streets, Berkeley
Speakers, etc., include Adrienne Rich, Piri Thomas, Michael
Parenti, Chrystos, Judi Bari, Mujah Shakir, Charley Hunter, Diane
Di Prima, Jamal Abu-Jamal, Larry Bensky, Dennis Bernstein, Kiilu
Nyasha, Lewis Jordan, Dr. Chinosole, Leonard Weinglass
$10 advance, $12 at the door.
Info: 510-848-6767, ext. 612
(There's also a fancy $40 reception if any of you out there are
members of the idle rich who support the rights of the poor. Call
415-648-4505 for info.)

I should say that the demonstration in Oakland yesterday was
quite successful for one called on short notice on a workday.
There were about 200 people there. (I counted 130 on the actual
picket line at one point, plus another 50 or so milling about in
various knots.  Given the ebb and flow of these things, there
were at least another 20 who showed up for a while and left.) The
demonstration was organized by the Spartacist League's front
group the Partisan Defense Committee.  (The Sparts justify their
existence about every ten years or so by picking some worthy
cause and doing exemplary work around it, and this is their
current one.)  The speakers included the secretary of the Alameda
County Central Labor Council, the president of the Oakland
Education Association and the chair of the Longshoremen's
Steward's Council, all of whom spoke to the class role of the
police in the U.S.  The crowd was quite diverse--multi-"racial"
and multigenerational and the demo was very lively.  The
anarchists and Revolutionary Communist Party set up a semi-
autonomous offshoot of about 30 people who continuously crossed
the street, covering all four corners of this major intersection,
which helped keep the demonstration as a whole very visible to
passersby in both vehicles and on foot.  (14th and Broadway is
the heart of downtown Oakland--the major bus transfer point, bus
to subway transfer point, and also heavy on vehicle and foot
traffic.)  In what I would consider to be a major right political
deviation, which will no doubt be addressed in the anarchist
press, the group not only crossed legally with the traffic
signals, but did so clockwise rather than widdershins!  Heads may
roll over this ...


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