Saturday, April 21, 2007

Excellent article by Linn Washington on police terror in Philadelphia in the face of the possibility of a new trial for Mumia

Excellent article by Linn Washington on police terror in Philadelphia in the face of the possibility of a new trial for Mumia. -Suzanne Ross of the Free Mumia Coalition (NYC)

The Philadelphia Tribune 4/17/07


By Linn Washington Jr.

Animals! Piece of Trash! Scum bag!

These words sound like the vicious name-calling that got fabled shock-jock Don Imus fired last week.

However, this name-calling has a more homegrown origin.

Yes, there's a radio connection to this expression of hatred.

And, yes, there is a racial animus element embedded in the ill-informed comments containing this name-calling.

But, the culprit here is not the now defunct Imus-In-The-Morning program that blared on both radio and cable television.

These venomous words are some of the verbal vomit hurled recently at Philadelphia's Clef Club expressing outrage toward a program scheduled for next Tuesday at the jazz venue on South Broad Street featuring famed actor/activist Danny Glover.

A centerpiece of this program was the planned showing of a documentary video narrated by Glover examining the controversial case of Philadelphia born, death-row journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Because this program examines the case of Abu-Jamal and is scheduled to take place on Abu-Jamal's birthday, it immediately sparked the ire Philadelphia's police union (the FOP) and local radio personalities supportive of Abu-Jamal's execution for the December 1981 death of Policeman Daniel Faulkner.

The anti-Abu-Jamal barrage of emails and telephone calls unleashed on the Clef Club included declarations perilously close to terroristic threats.

Some of the emails, including from persons identifying themselves as Philadelphia police officers, threatened a withdrawal of police services from the Clef Club.

"Any self respecting police officer in Philadelphia should refuse to answer any calls for service at your establishment," one policeman reportedly stated in an email.

"Since you insist on supporting this piece of trash, I highly recommend that in the future if you find yourself a victim of crime that you DO NOT call 911 for help. Call mumia or MOVE….if you cannot support us why then should we support you?"

While the Imus controversy dominated the national spotlight last week, the Board of the Clef Club decided not to accommodate the Abu-Jamal event.

The Board, according to sources, decided to utilize the venue only for events that support the Club's mission of furthering arts and culture in the community.

The FOP's website offered a different take on the Board's decision.

The Board reviewed the "event and its implications" for Philadelphia police and "moved to cancel the event," stated a FOP website posting.

"The Clef Club Board indicated that they "wish no harm to come to any Philadelphia Police officer ever.""

Funny how many of those citing Free Speech Rights to question the propriety of firing Imus for his latest racist rant never question the propriety of routinely sabotaging Free Speech Rights of those asserting that official misconduct stripped constitutional fair trial rights from Abu-Jamal.

Opponents of Abu-Jamal proclaim his conviction an `open-&-shut' case of guilt.

Yet, authorities used `open-&-shut' following the arrest of a suspect for the May 1981 sniper murder of a Philadelphia policeman.

Police, according to '81 news reports, stated this suspect confessed his involvement in murdering that (black) policeman.

Yet, a jury acquitted the teenaged suspect in this `open-&-shut' case.

Authorities used `open-&-shut' following the June 1981 arrest of a suspect for murdering a Philly organized crime figure. Authorities cited eyewitness identification and a jail-house confession…evidence that sent this suspect to death row.

Yet, evidence later proved that this suspect was framed by two Philadelphia police detectives and a PD sketch artist.

The City of Philadelphia ultimately paid $1.9-million to settle a lawsuit filed by this suspect.

Those responsible for this `open-&-shut' case suspect falsely spending 1,375-days on death row, suffering a nervous breakdown and developing ulcers never faced criminal charges.

Authorities used `open-&-shut' during the 1989, triple murder trial of Harold Wilson.

Wilson, a speaker on the program featuring Glover, spent over 16-years on Pa's death row before his release in November 2005 resulting from serious misconduct by police and prosecutors, including withholding evidence of innocence.

When authorities released Wilson – after robbing a dozen-plus years from his life – they gave him sixty-five cents, a SEPTA token and a warning: Don't come back!

Misconduct by police and prosecutors are elements in the so-called `open-&-shut' conviction of Abu-Jamal – a conviction the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals will review during a May 17th hearing.

The phrase double-standards float around the Imus firing, questioning his sacking while allowing some rap music artists to profit from using similar slurs.

Double-standards undercut the FOP's claims that its staunch stance against Abu-Jamal is simply defending police officers from attack.

In December 1978, the FOP expelled a long-time member for criticizing the televised police beating of a MOVE member during a shoot-out where an officer died.

Prior to the FOP's expulsion, Officer (and local NAACP president) Alfonso Deal received death threats.

Refusals by police to `back-up' Deal while on patrol forced black off-duty policemen to provide protection to Deal.

In March 1991 the City made a six-figure settlement in the lawsuit filed by a police detective who charged ranking Police and FOP officials with viciously retaliating against him for testifying before the Commission investigating the 1985 MOVE bombing.

A 3/14/91 Daily News editorial criticized city officials for failing to fire those responsible for terrorizing that detective.

The national soul-searching following the Imus firing must extend beyond examining broadcast bigotry.

Justice-for-all needs to move from flowery rhetoric to factual reality.

Linn Washington Jr. is an award-winning writer who teaches journalism at Temple University

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