Responding to cruel and vindictive disregard for the serious health problems of Mumia Abu-Jamal by prison authorities, a small protest was held on Friday 8 May 2015 in Wellington, New Zealand, to demand his immediate release. The rally was jointly organized by Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movement, Fightback, the International Bolshevik Tendency, the International Socialist Organisation, Don Franks and Val Morse. The ISO’s Somi Yun highlighted Mumia Abu-Jamal’s critical medical situation, while an independent Maori demonstrator, who had participated in Mumia demonstrations in the United States 10 years ago, led a chant. Below is a lightly edited version of remarks made by Adaire Hannah of the IBT.
We are here today to demand the immediate release of Mumia Abu-Jamal, America’s most prominent political prisoner. Mumia has spent more than 33 years in jail – 30 of those years on death row. He is now condemned to life without parole.
Mumia was charged with the murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner in December 1981. He is innocent. From the beginning it was apparent that he was framed. The crime scene was not sealed. Supposed witnesses were coerced to lie or face jail on other charges. Evidence was “lost.” Mumia’s wounds did not correspond to police descriptions of what happened. Medical staff said that Mumia did not speak in the ambulance or while being admitted to hospital, but the police say he confessed during this time. He was denied his own lawyer. The judge was overheard by a court clerk to say that he’d help to “fry the nigger!” And to cap it all off, another man, Arnold Beverly, has confessed to killing Faulkner.
This case demonstrates once again that the capitalist state is not neutral. Mumia was a radical political journalist and known to the police and FBI from the time he joined the Black Panthers at 15. He exposed the corruption of Philadelphia’s city officials and police. He was a nuisance for the state.
His execution was prevented only by international and trade-union action, including an exemplary stoppage by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) in 1999.
In spite of his incarceration, Mumia has continued to campaign against injustice. He has fought to have the truth told. However, his right to be heard beyond prison walls, and that of other prisoners, has repeatedly been under attack by the American state and the Fraternal Order of Police. His communication with his family is often denied and his telephone rights removed.
The latest crisis Mumia has faced is his deteriorating health. The prison authorities largely ignored this until he actually fell unconscious. They have withheld the results of medical tests. Mumia’s family, lawyers and friends are waging a constant fight to get decent medical diagnosis and treatment.
This crisis has sparked the latest international call to demand immediate freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal, recognizing that the justice system seems determined to execute Mumia one way or another.
On 1 May, a day to recognise international workers’ struggles and solidarity, ILWU Local 10 shut down the Port of Oakland to protest against the wave of racist police killings of black and brown Americans. Actions such as these are necessary for workers here in New Zealand to emulate.
We, workers and oppressed, have the power to change things. But it requires class struggle. For that we need a leadership. We need to move forward to the building of a mass revolutionary party committed to consigning the horrors of capitalism to the history books.