By JEFF MACKLER
BERKELEY, Calif.-A March 6 “Race for Justice” Western Regional Conference for Mumia at the University of California here attracted over 1500 activists.
The conference demonstrated the broadest unity yet achieved in the effort to take the emerging national mass movement to stop the execution and demand a new trial to a new level.
The conference featured 225 speakers, 50 workshops, and two plenary sessions. Close to 100,000 April 24 flyers and 4000 posters were distributed to activists at the conference, who attended from towns, cities, and college campuses from the Canadian border to San Diego.
The conference was highlighted by the presence of a large layer of activist youth, many of oppressed nationalities.
Over 150 youth attended the workshop titled “Hip Hop Resistance: A Discussion About the Politics of Hip Hop and the Struggle to Free Mumia.” Organized by Youth for Socialist Action members, the workshop gave evidence of the deep roots that Mumia’s struggle for freedom has established among a new generation of youth who seek to link cultural issues with racism and political repression in the U.S.
Almost a dozen workshops organized by a wide range of youth organizations and political currents attracted young people from every region in the Western part of the country. In addition to workshops organized by their parent organizations, youth chapters from Amnesty International and the ACLU planned workshops for their members and supporters.
Workshops approaching 100 people were initiated by the Black Radical Congress, the Jericho Movement for Amnesty, and representatives of current and former political prisoners. They were jam-packed, often forcing participants to observe from hallways and through open windows.
A workshop titled “Live From Death Row,” initiated by the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, drew some 150 activists who, through phone hook-ups, communicated directly with prisoners on death row.
Leonard Weinglass, Mumia Abu-Jamal’s chief legal counsel, addressed two plenary sessions and also afforded conference participants the opportunity to probe the details of the case in a packed workshop that included leaders of the ACLU and National Lawyers Guild.
“A Winning Strategy to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal” was the title of a huge workshop that featured representatives of a number of key organizations that have united to help lead the struggle for Mumia’s freedom.
These included Carole Seligman, the past co-coordinator of the conference sponsoring organization, The Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, and a leader of Socialist Action; Pam Africa, International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal; Clark Kissinger, Refuse and Resist; Richard Becker, National People’s Campaign; and Becky Downer, of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty.
Other popular workshops related Mumia’s struggle to religion, the prison industrial complex, California’s racist Three Strikes Law, media disinformation, “police brutality, repression, and the criminalization of a generation,” the death penalty, and the Oakland schools teach-in on Mumia.
Over 100 trade unionists attended a workshop entitled, “Workers Have the Power: Labor Action for Mumia,” which was organized by the Bay Area Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia. Members of this committee have won considerable support among Bay Area unions for Mumia’s case and April 24.
This writer co-chaired the plenary sessions and opened the conference with greetings from 81 members of the Danish Parliament who, a few weeks before, signed a call for a new trial for Mumia.
Greetings were also received from Jennifer Harbury, whose husband died several years ago at the hands of Guatemalan death squads with the complicity of the CIA.