A Critical Period in the Battle to Save Mumia Abu-Jamal

The following letter was initiated by the National Coordinators of the movement to free the framed-up Black political prisoner, Mumia Abu-Jamal. The coordinators and other prominent defense activists have listed a number of the upcoming major events designed to win new support for Mumia’s demand for a new trial.

The new millennium will usher in some CRUCIAL MONTHS IN THE BATTLE TO SAVE MUMIA ABU-JAMAL. Now more than ever, our energies and efforts must be both more intense and more carefully implemented. The early months of 2000 are those in which we must build and mobilize public expression, during the run-up to a critical ruling by the Federal District Court that may happen as early as March.

This court ruling, by Federal District Judge William H. Yohn Jr., may determine whether or not Mumia receives an “evidentiary hearing” to reopen the factual record in his case, or whether all future appeals will be based on the court record of the “hanging judge” Albert Sabo. Judge Sabo found every prosecution witness to be truthful, found every defense witness to be untruthful, and barred the admission of witnesses and documents critical to Mumia’s defense.

THE EVIDENCE MUST BE HEARD. Judge Yohn must now decide whether or not to exercise his power to review fully all aspects of state court rulings and findings of fact. Yohn has the Constitutional power to do this, even with the constraints imposed on federal courts by the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.

This ruling is crucial, because it determines whether the evidence barred by Pennsylvania courts will ever be heard, and it will determine what record of the facts in this case will be used during all future federal appeals. If Sabo’s record is allowed to stand, then there is no such thing as justice in the United States.

MASS MOVEMENTS DO SHAPE COURT DECISIONS. Legal pundits would have us believe that everything is decided by judges. But history shows that the courts are greatly affected by voices and actions of the people. This is particularly true in high profile political cases that concentrate broader issues being fought out in society.

Remember how mass actions and the bus boycott forced the courts to rule against segregation in Montgomery, Ala.? Appeals courts overturned the Chicago Seven convictions and the conviction of Panther leader Huey P. Newton, in part because the whole world was watching.

And the movement against the war in Vietnam impelled an emergency ruling by the Supreme Court to allow publication of the Pentagon Papers. It is during the early months of 2000 that the government will be “taking the temperature of society” on this case, and making the decision of how much they will be forced to give ground.

OUR MOVEMENT FOR MUMIA HAS ACHIEVED MUCHover the last year. The Oakland teach-ins, the Rage Against the Machine concerts, the N.Y. Town Hall Rally, the West Coast Longshoremen’s work stoppage, the April 24 mobilizations, the Evergreen State College commencement address, 95 arrested in civil disobedience at the Liberty Bell, Mumia 911, and Mumia Awareness Week, have set Mumia’s case before millions.

But let us not kid ourselves. We still need to build the broadest movement possible in order to counter an opposition that remains powerful, dangerous, well-organized and poised to kill Mumia.

EVERYONE IS WELCOME in the movement to stop the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal. If you are someone who is profoundly disturbed over what happened to Mumia in the courts, and are worried what will happen if this is allowed to stand as precedent, then we need your voice.

If you are someone whose principal issue is the death penalty itself, then the fight is here. If you are someone who is convinced of Mumia’s innocence, then don’t let a miscarriage of justice take place. If you are someone concerned about the suppression of dissenting voices, then help make Mumia’s voice heard.

EVERYONE CAN TAKE ACTION. Already planned are dozens of programs, actions, newspaper ads, and mobilizations to give collective voice to our cry for justice (see attached list). The actions of every individual count. Mumia’s lawyer, Leonard Weinglass, has already received over 15,000 letters to Judge Yohn on Mumia’s behalf. Couldn’t we collect 100,000 such letters by the time of the hearing?

Virtually everyone has access to some professional or social grouping. Can’t we all take this case in our schools, churches, professional associations, unions, and even our friends and families? Can’t we take advantage of public events and commemorations such as the Martin Luther King weekend to raise Mumia’s case? Can’t we poster Mumia’s image everywhere?

With the year 2000 being an election year, shouldn’t the candidates be hounded with this issue? Pennsylvania Gov. Ridge has now signed 179 death warrants, 106 for African Americans in a state that is 10 percent Black. Shouldn’t he be branded everywhere as “Governor Death”?

WE ALL HAVE MUCH AT STAKE in preserving Mumia’s life and voice.

The movement for Mumia has become a focus for many other movements that are working to shake our peoples free from patterns of oppression that ravage us today: the epidemic of police brutality concentrated in Black and Latino communities, the burgeoning prison-industrial complex, the ready use of a death penalty that is likely to place nearly 4000 people on death row by the end the year 2000.

We dare not lose Mumia’s voice and life. Every day of our movement’s past work has been indispensable to where we are now in the struggle to save Mumia. The next few months, leading up to the Federal District Court’s decision on an evidentiary hearing and whether Sabo’s record will be allowed to stand, must feature our best efforts, our strongest measures, our most creative energies.

Signed: Pam Africa, International Concerned Family & Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal; Safiya Bukhari, Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition (New York); Ron Daniels, Center for Constitutional Rights; Angela Davis, University of California-Santa Cruz; Ossie Davis; Martín Espada, poet; Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Harvard University; Frances Goldin, literary agent; C. Clark Kissinger, Refuse & Resist!

Jeff Mackler, Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal (Northern California); Bob Mandel, Oakland Education Association; Manning Marable, Black Radical Congress; Robert Meeropol, Rosenberg Fund for Children.

Monica Moorehead, Millions for Mumia/International Action Center; Joan Parkin, Campaign to End the Death Penalty; Marcus Rediker, Western PA Committee to Free Mumia (Pittsburgh); Muhjah Shakir, The Jericho Amnesty Movement; Rev. Al Sharpton, National Action Network; Mark Taylor, Academics for Mumia Abu-Jamal; Michael Warren, attorney; Steve Wiser, Bruderhof communities; Julia Wright, International Concerned Family & Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal (Paris).



Key Events for Mumia


NOTE: on the day of Mumia’s first court appearance, there will be a mass convergence on Philadelphia. For information, call (215) 476-8812.

January: Amnesty International to publish pamphlet on the Mumia case.

Jan. 12: International Delegation: The International Committee to Save the Life of Mumia Abu-Jamal brings prominent leaders from South Africa, Brazil, Martinique, France, Germany, Spain, England, and U.S. to Washington, D.C., for projected meetings at White House and Justice Dept. (216) 382-4597. Delegation includes Martin Luther King Jr., members of French parliament, British MPs, and others.

Jan. 15-17: MLK commemorations. Organizers urged to bring Mumia theme to these events.

Feb. 18-19: National Emergency Conference for Mumia at Synod Hall of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York City. Fax endorsement to (212) 614-6499. Call (212) 571-0962 in N.Y. or (415) 695-7745 in San Francisco.

Week of Feb. 23: Annual national student/youth day for Mumia

Feb. 28: Non-Violent Civil Disobedience actions at federal courthouses in Washington, D.C., (202) 722-1911 and San Francisco, (510) 389-2377.

Feb.-March: “Educators for Mumia” ad in The New York Times. (609) 430-1444.

April 1-8: Mumia Awareness Week, tied to anniversary of MLK assassination, (212) 571-0962.

April: publication of Mumia’s new book “All Things Censored.”

April 29: Rosenberg Fund for Children/Middle East Children’s Alliance program with Mumia’s son Mazi, Martin Espada, Holly Near, Michael and Robbie Meeropol (sons of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg). Berkeley Community Theater, (510) 548-0542.

May 6: Western Regional Mass Mobilization for Mumia at San Francisco’s Civic Center. To endorse, call Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, (415) 695-7745, 3425 Cesar Chavez, S.F. 94110.

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