Rising tensions over Mumia defense
lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Tue Nov 16 11:12:18 MST 1999
For the first time in American history, an armed group authorized to
investigate, arrest and if necessary shoot citizens, has organized itself
to threaten "persons, products and companies" associated with a political
cause they oppose. Is this an exercise of free speech by people with guns
and the authority to use them, or a chilling next step in the suppression
of dissent in America?
At their recent National Conference in Alabama, the Fraternal Order of
Police (FOP), the largest organization of cops in the United States, voted
unanimously to "begin a boycott of persons, products and companies
associated with the supporting of convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal. The
F.O.P. has announced the formal boycotting of the following:
1. Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Products who are donators to a defense fund
for the killer.
2. Actor Paul Newman, an outspoken supporter of the killer.
3. Actress Susan Sarandon, another supporter of the killer.
4. Filmmakers Spike Lee, Oliver Stone and John Landis, supporters of the
5. Writers Norman Mailer and Joyce Carol Oates, supporters of the killer.
6. Super model Naomi Campbell, supporter of the killer."
The above notice was sent via email to police stations and firehouses
around the country.
Mumia Abu-Jamal is an African American journalist, a founding member of the
Black Panther Party in Philadelphia in the 1960s, a respected public radio
reporter, and an outspoken critic of police brutality. In 1981 he was
convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of a Philadelphia policeman
in a trial that millions have come to see as an openly racist mockery of
The Fraternal Order of Police "hit" list appears to be drawn from an open
letter that appeared in the New York Times in August 1995, signed by 100
people calling for a new and fair trial for Mumia. Among other signatories,
presumably now also under threat from the Fraternal Order of Police, were
writers William Styron, Paul Auster, E.L Doctorow and Dean Ornish, leading
computer software developers Peter Norton and Mitch Kapor, actors Alec
Baldwin and Danny Glover, venture capitalist Allan Patricof, film critic
Roger Ebert, musician Bobby McFerrin and dozens more.
The latest target of the Fraternal Order of Police threat are musicians
Sting and Rage Against the Machine, who have at different times expressed
opposition to the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal. Sting and Rage are
scheduled to perform at venues outside Philadelphia on November 14 and
December 16 respectively. Rage is scheduled to appear at the First Union
Center, a venue near Philadelphia. According to an article in the
Philadelphia Inquirer (Nov 3) "Richard Costello, the head of the FOP has
threatened to boycott the First Union Center a venue near Philadelphia if
Rage Against the Machine holds a concert there. "We'll target anything and
everything that uses the First Union Center, including the Flyers and the
Sixers [local professional sports teams-fstv] and even the bank that built
it." (Philadelphia Inquirer, Nov 3) Members of the FOP in Delaware County,
where the Sting concert is to take place, said they were prepared to
mobilize hundreds of off-duty police and supporters to protest the concert.
"We'd like to make it a traffic nightmare so that maybe people can't get
Sting's management office has stated that he stands firm against the death
penalty and is planning to go ahead with his concert. Rage Against the
Machine has indicated they will not be intimidated into backing down.
Mumia recently won a stay of execution from a Federal Judge in Philadelphia
who will hear his petition for a writ of habeus corpus and decide within
the next few months whether or not he will be given a new trial.
The issues surrounding this nationwide police campaign to kill Mumia and
threaten those advocating for a new trial (whom they call "supporters of
cop killers") have not been seriously examined in the mainstream media. Is
this a desirable role for the police forces of the country? Or does it
conjure harrowing images of censorship and the menacing threats of we've
come to associate with Germany in the 1930s and 40s or South Africa under
A statement signed by a growing number of artists reads: "We artists
condemn the police attacks on musicians for their political beliefs. The
boycott of artists and businesses called by the Fraternal Order of Police
is no ordinary political boycott. The police are government employees who
are in a position of power over people, and their boycott is a direct form
of police intimidation and censorship of the arts. This national political
campaign by police to execute Mumia Abu-Jamal is unprecedented and very
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