Youth in Action

‘Mumia’s Life is in Our Hands’

Paul M., a high school student in San Francisco and a member of Youth for Socialist Action, spoke at a high school workshop at the Match 6 conference for Mumia Abu-Jamal in Berkeley, Calif.

Portions of his remarks follow:

I am going to talk about the state of Mumia’s case right now and what it is going to take to free him.

Last October, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court unanimously rejected Mumia’s appeal for a new trial. This decision was not because there was a lack of evidence on behalf of Mumia. On the contrary, they had plenty of evidence that Mumia was innocent. They rejected Mumia’s appeal because of what Mumia represents.

There is a war going on between oppressed people and oppressors. Prisons are being built at the same time as our schools are falling apart. Police brutality is on the rise. Our generation is the first generation in history to have our standards of living decline from that of our parents.

Mumia is like a soldier on the side of social justice and equality for all people. That is why the reactionary forces of racism and exploitation are determined to take Mumia’s life.

There is more evidence being uncovered every day that Mumia is not guilty of the crime for which he sits on death row. But we can’t count on the courts to give him justice because they want him dead for what he represents.

Mumia’s life is in our hands. Mumia says that. His attorneys say that. So the question is-what do we have to do to win Mumia’s freedom?

We can’t free Mumia by waiting for the courts or expecting liberal politicians to come to our rescue. The only way to free Mumia is by mass action. By mobilizing hundreds of thousands of people in the streets to demand that Mumia receive a new trial where his innocence can be proven….

Every gain and right that people have won has come from mass struggle. Women’s right to vote, for example. Or social security.

Let’s take the civil rights movement. Even though we still live in a very racist society, and in some areas it’s maybe even worse today than it used to be, there were considerable gains made by the civil rights movement. This is because it was a mass movement that organized great numbers of Black people.

The Montgomery bus boycott was not just about Rosa Parks. It involved the whole Black community to organize their own means of transportation for a really long period of time. You had marches through Selma, Alabama. There were marches going on in the North as well.

You had the March On Washington. Even the campaign to register Black voters was done in a mass way. That is why the civil rights movement made the gains that it did.

It was the same thing with the movement against the war in Vietnam. When the anti-war movement started it was very small. But the organizers had it in their minds to reach the American people and mobilize them against the war.

Because they took that approach, it became a huge movement with demonstrations of hundreds of thousands of people. At one point, on April 24, 1971, there were close to a million in New York and half a million in San Francisco marching at the same time! Campuses were shut down and huge marches were bringing whole cities to a halt.

This is the reason why our government pulled its troops out of Vietnam. They saw the power of the people in the streets and they were forced to end the war.

I also want to mention one other case that parallels Mumia’s case in some respects. This is the case of the Scottsboro Brothers.

In 1931, which was the time of Jim Crow segregation and racist lynchings, nine African American men were arrested for riding the train. This was during the Depression and a lot of people illegally traveled on trains in order to look for work.

Two white women were also found on the train. In order to escape their own charges, the white women claimed that they had been raped by the Black men. This charge was often used against Black men in order to incite racist lynchings.

An all-white jury sentenced eight of the African American men to die and the other one to a life sentence because he was very young. Eventually, the convictions of these men were overturned and they were set free and escaped execution.

The reason that they were set free was because a mass movement arose that mobilized large numbers of people in their defense. Mass demonstrations were held all over the country and tens of thousands of people went into action.

This is the exact strategy that must be adopted in Mumia’s case. It is only through this kind of action, where people join together and realize their power, that we will be able to free Mumia.

The key is to make the price of Mumia’s death one which the rulers of America decide they don’t want to pay. That is, we must make sure that so many people will be outraged by Mumia’s execution, and so many people will be disillusioned with our system by Mumia’s execution, that the rulers decide that they don’t want to kill him.

If you think about it, a majority of the American people probably believe that people should receive fair trials. So the potential exists for organizing the same kind of mass movement for Mumia.

That is what April 24 is all about. Every one from the West Coast will come to San Francisco, and the East Coast will demonstrate in Philadelphia. We want to get as many people as possible into the streets to demand a new trial for Mumia.

As young people, we need to be in the forefront of this struggle. We should have students from every high school marching on April 24, representing their school. If we did that, they couldn’t kill Mumia. That is the power that we have.

I want to read a short quote by Mumia right now, “A Call To Action”:

The choice, as every choice, is yours:

To fight for freedom or be fettered,

To struggle for liberty or be satisfied with slavery,

To side with life or death

That is the choice that young people need to make.

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