From Sis. Kiilu:
- a report to the movement, by the Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal
Programming for and about the innocent death-row political prisoner, Mumia Abu-Jamal, was initially called for by the World War II, US internment camp survivor, Yuri Kochiyama. Kochiyama issued a letter asking for cards to be sent to Mumia, and for programming to happen on public radio on the 24th of April, Mumia's 56th birthday. This is the 28th year of Mumia's incarceration for a crime he didn't commit--half his life! The Pacifica National Board (PNB), the governing body of the network, responded by passing a resolution encouraging such programming on member stations of the Pacifica Network. Two stations responded:
1. KPFA, Berkeley, CA:
Two hours of programming happened on KPFA from 4 to 6 PM, on Mumia's birthday. The 2 hours were moderated by journalist JR Valrey, of POCC Block Report Radio, and a frequent contributor on KPFA's Flashpoints. The Apprenticeship Program contributed some supporting material to this segment. JR spent a valuable 40 minutes interviewing Linn Washington, a journalist at the Philadelphia Tribune who has covered Mumia's case from the very beginning, in December 1981. It was Washington who, visiting the site of the shooting of a cop early in the morning after, reported that the police had left the scene unguarded, leaving evidence unattended. This reporting provided the first indications that the police had already begun to frame someone up for the crime, and hence had no need for securing evidence.
On the show, Washington covered the "mitigating factors" issue in the penalty phase of Mumia's 1982 trial. Corrupt and unfair on many levels, Mumia's trial was a mockery of justice from beginning to end. Witnesses who saw men fleeing the scene (who could not have included Mumia, who was shot, almost killed, and found at the scene) were never called. Prosecution "witnesses" who never saw anything were forced to lie by corrupt police. The judge, Albert Sabo, an out-racist, was overheard to say, "yeah, and I'm gonna help 'em fry the n____r"!
Among numerous other violations--which included excluding Mumia from his own trial---this judge issued false instructions to the jury in the penalty phase of the the trial. He suggested that the jury had to be unanimous in deciding on mitigating factors (such as the fact that Mumia had no prior convictions for anything). Such factors, if decided according to law, would have "mitigated" (ie, prevented) the jury from issuing a death sentence. These false instructions conflicted with a Supreme Court ruling in Mills v Maryland, in which the Court had said that such factors required a simple majority only.
"The Mumia Exception"
Washington mentioned that federal courts have overturned 32 cases--of which 22 originated in Philadelphia, where Mumia was framed--in which mitigating circumstances were mishandled by state courts.
But in Mumia's case, the rules were changed! After rejecting Mumia's appeal against his unjust conviction last year, the Supreme Court virtually threw out its own Mills v Maryland ruling in early in 2010, in order to defeat Mumia's case. The Court sent the case back to the Third Circuit, with instruction to reconsider their Mills v Maryland reason for setting Mumia's death sentence aside.
It was Linn Washington who coined the term "the Mumia exception," to point out how the courts have consistently changed their own rules and precedents in order to maintain the frame-up of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
"Power flows from the barrel of a gun"
Washington also discussed the 1990 Supreme Court ruling, in which the court denied Mumia's appeal against the prosecutor's use of his (years earlier) membership in the Black Panther Party (BPP), also in the penalty phase of the trial. This dealt with an obvious violation of Mumia's first amendment rights. Mumia had stated at trial that he had been treated unfairly. Such a statement by a defendant is not supposed to be subject to cross examination. But judge Sabo, true to his identification as a "prosecutor in robes," allowed the prosecution to cross examine. It was then that the prosecution entered an 8-year-old news piece against Mumia. This report, taken out of context, attributed a famous quote by Mao Tse-tung to Mumia: "power flows from the barrel of a gun."
The Supreme Court rejected Mumia's appeal against this violation of his rights in 1990, but--in another example of the Mumia exception--reversed itself months later on two other cases! Washington pointed out how the Court reversed itself on two cases on the same question--one of a racist prison gang member, and one of a devil-worshipper, both murderers. In these cases, the "high" Court said that the prosecutor erred in using prior political association against a defendant, when in Mumia's case, they had not done so!
Chairman Fred Hampton Jr, Mumia's Daughter, & Suzanne Ross
JR also interviewed POCC Chairman Fred Hampton Jr, son of the murdered Black Panther leader Fred Hampton. Hampton talked about the outrageous conditions faced by all prisoners in the US, especially prisoners of color and those falsely accused.
JR then interviewed Mumia's daughter Goldie, who was very moving. She discussed how this bogus case affects a family. Mumia has grandchildren that he's never had the opportunity to touch!
Next up was Suzanne Ross, of the New York Coalition to Free Mumia, who explained and defended the petition which has been submitted to Obama's Attorney General, Eric Holder, on behalf of Mumia. The petition calls for a civil rights investigation of Mumia's case by the US Justice Department. Ross mentioned that the Justice Department has rejected this appeal (which was filed last year) in a recent letter. But she said that, "we plan to go back on April 26th," with a new document proving a conspiracy (which is what is required in order to get around the Justice Dep't's 5-yr statute of limitations on such investigations).
Ross said that the idea of this petition originated with then-Congressman Ron Dellums, who followed up on the 1995 Congressional Black Caucus statement by demanding such a civil rights investigation from the Justice Dep't. Ross apologized profusely for mentioning Dellums in a positive light, in consideration of his current actions. Now the Mayor of Oakland, Dellums was more concerned with property values in downtown than he was with the black community, when he condemned protests against the police murder Oscar Grant. Grant, a young black retail grocery worker was lying face-down on a subway platform on New Years Day 2009 when he was shot in the back for no reason!
The response to Dellums in 1995 from the Justice Department focussed on the fact that litigation in Mumia's case was still proceeding then. Now (in 2009), according to Ross, the idea was revived because, with appeals exhausted, "the gig was up; there was nothing left."
JR then interviewed M1 from the rap group Dead Prez, who was very moved by his recent long interview with Mumia. He got to talk to Mumia for hours, and was very impressed with Mumia's fantastic spirit, and ability to speak on many issues. He planned to incorporate many things that Mumia said into his music. Key quotes from Mumia were "everything is political," and, "the culture of resistance is revolutionary."
Jack Heyman of the ILWU
Jack Heyman's interview then came on. Heyman is an executive board member of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10, and the key leader of an historic West-Coast port shutdown to free Mumia in 1999. In this action, primarily black longshore workers shut all the ports for one shift, and then marched in San Francisco chanting, "An injury to one is an injury to all, free Mumia Abu-Jamal!"
Heyman, who is also a member of the Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, described the port shutdown in context of labor history. In the 1920's and 30's, the communist-led International Labor Defense (ILD) fought the frame ups of Sacco and Vanzetti and the Scottsboro boys. Interested in what's happening now, JR asked, "why is labor interested in Mumia?" "Mumia represents an important part of the class struggle," said Heyman. "Mumia stood with the working class by refusing to be interviewed about his own case by ABC's 20/20 during a lockout," despite the threat of a death sentence hanging over him. And, as Heyman described, Mumia has consistently supported other workers' struggles over the years. His commentaries have repeatedly been payed at workers' rallies.
Heyman also mentioned the Rio de Janeiro teachers in Brazil, who were the first internationally to hold a workers' stop-work action to free Mumia. "Capital is global now," said Heyman. He then mentioned the current struggle of locked out ILWU Rio Tinto miners, in Boron, CA. Mining conglomerate Rio Tinto is international, with operations in South African and Canada as well as the US.
At the end, Jack mentioned that some people in the Mumia movement "have illusions" in appealing to Attorney General Holder. "We think that the system will never grant Mumia a new trial," said Heyman "I agree with that," said JR. Jack concluded by saying "we need to get back into the streets."
Mumia Abu-Jamal: "Law is the tool of those in power"
A short interview with Mumia completed the 2-hour segment. About the "Mumia exception" issues mentioned earlier by Linn Washington, Mumia said that "the law is the tool of those in power, so it's not the law, it's power," that's decisive. Mumia also commented on life on death row, which is "22 & 2." ie, mostly a life of complete isolation. "Some men go mad," said Mumia, "and we've seen a spate of suicides." He also mentioned the case of Amadou Diallo in New York, in which "shoot first and ask questions later" was the rule as cops killed an innocent, unarmed man in a hail of bullets while he stood in his own doorway in 1999. These cops were acquitted, and later transferred to Albany. "What does that say about their attitude to the people they're supposed to serve?" asked Mumia.
And finally, on KPFA, Mumia's own greeting to supporters celebrating his birthday was played on Flashpoints (5 PM weeknights), on Monday the 26th of April. In this brief interview, Mumia said, "the movement is what keeps me alive." "Build the movement," he concluded. Right on!
More info on this programming is at www.kpfa.org.
2. WBAI, New York:
There was a one-hour program on Mumia on "Where We Live," with Sally O'Brien, on Thursday the 22nd. It began with Mumia's birthday greeting to his supporters (see above) and then moved to a clip from the 1995 PCRA hearing, which O'Brien covered for Pacifica. This was followed by 20 minutes with Linn Washington, an interview with Mumia's sister, and concluded with Suzanne Ross on the demand for a civil rights investigation.
Then on Saturday the 24th, NY State Senator Bill Perkins, Ramona Africa of the MOVE organization, and Suzanne Ross appeared on "On the Count," a prison program hosted by Eddie Ellis, at 10:30 AM on Saturday the 24th. Special birthday tributes to Mumia from Assata Shakur and Angela Davis were also on the show.
See the web site at www.wbai.org for more on this programming.
The Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal is organized to promote a class-struggle defense for Mumia Abu-Jamal. We have no confidence in the courts or Justice Department to grant Mumia a new trial, let alone free him. For labor action to free Mumia!
Write Mumia at:
Mumia Abu Jamal
175 Progress Drive
Waynesburg PA 15370.
Visit our web site at www.laboractionmumia.org