Address Given by Didier Paillard, Mayor of Saint-Denis, France at Inauguration of Street Honoring Mumia Abu-Jamal
Saturday, April 29, 2006, 11 AM
Deputy Mayor, Elected Representatives, dear friends who have come from the United States, Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is very rare for a city to name a street after someone who is still alive. We are doing that today because of these exceptional circumstances. For over a quarter of a century, in the most powerful country in the world, a man who was sentenced to death, is in danger at any moment of being executed, despite assertions of his innocence.
In this struggle for his survival, Mumia Abu-Jamal has already won a victory: he has broken the wall of silence, and has little by little become a symbol.
It is a symbol for justice, for the abolition of the Death Penalty, for the respect of the fundamental rights of a human being.
It is a symbol of resistance against a system which has the arrogance to reign over the world in the name of those same human rights which it tramples with complete impunity on its own soil.
It is a symbol of absolute opposition to racial discrimination, which we know still exists today when it is the African-American population which has the highest rate of poverty, of homelessness, of incarceration, and of AIDS.
In naming a street in honor of Mumia Abu Jamal in Saint-Denis, we solemnly express our solidarity with the ongoing struggle for this man.
The inauguration which brings us together today gives continuity to a commitment on the part of the city of Saint-Denis to everything related to human dignity.
This morning, we sponsored the citizenship of 80 private citizens granting them the legal status and dignity that the law prevented them from receiving under the authority of France.
Tomorrow, we will meet again to commemorate the national day of deportation, paying homage to the victims of the Nazi barbarity.
In several weeks, in this same square, we will salute the memory of the Spaniards of Saint-Denis who participated in the Resistance (ed. note: referring to the anti-Franco resistance).
The action which brings us together today continues a fundamental tradition in the history of the social and political movement of our country. Over time, generations identified themselves with the struggles carried out by courageous freedom fighters. The names and the periods have changed but the profound spirit of these movements remain universal. Today it is Mumia, yesterday it was Sacco and Vanzetti, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Angela Davis, Victor Jara, Nelson Mandela.
The dynamism of the Saint Denis Committee to Free Mumia also brings honor to our city. When the activists petitioned us to give special recognition to this particular struggle, naturally the city granted the request.
Tradition calls for the names of places or streets to commemorate a page in our collective history. In Saint-Denis we thus have:
- numerous names of streets that are the names of resisters from the Second World War era
- a Place Julian Grimau, the name of a militant condemned to death by the Franco dictatorship
- a Che Guevara Avenue
- a Bobby Sands Street
In addition, very recently, we named two streets Kateb Yacine and Mohamed Dib, two great Algerian writers who embody the struggle against the obscurantism of fundamentalism.
Next we will be naming a street Cecile Brunschviecg, the name of this activist who was one of the first women to enter the government under the Popular Front, in an era when women were still denied the right to vote.
These names commemorate a work or a struggle that we wish to inscribe in the collective memory.
The city of Saint Denis is the first in France, and perhaps elsewhere, to name a Mumia Abu-Jamal Street.
This initiative takes on special importance at a moment when international pressure can create the possibility of a significant advance, thus eliminating the risk of killing an innocent person.
It is completely intentional that this street is situated in a section of Saint-Denis that is in the midst of being transformed, a section in which new residents are moving in, where there is growing economic activity, a section resolutely facing the future,
Rue Mumia Abu Jamal is thus beside:
- Human Rights Square,
- Children’s Rights Square
- the street Rol Taguy, the liberator of Paris in 1944
- the street Eleanor Rubiano, an anti-Nazi resister who was deported.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am certain that behind the bars of his cell, at this very moment, despite the time difference, Mumia Abu-Jamal, who is aware of this inauguration is with us in his thoughts.
In the name of all of you, in the name of the residents of Saint-Denis, we salute Mumia, we salute your courage, and we hope to find you very soon, among us, a free man.