The International Bolshevik Tendency helped organize a demonstration in Wellington, New Zealand on Thursday 30 August 2018 in solidarity with Mumia Abu-Jamal, the former Black Panther imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. The rally drew a small but spirited crowd, with veteran leftist Don Franks opening and closing the proceedings with his ballad to Mumia, and included speakers from the IBT, International Socialist Organisation, and People Against Prisons Aotearoa.
The protest coincided with an important legal hearing for Mumia on the same day involving all evidence pertaining to the role of former District Attorney Ronald Castille in his case. Castille was later elevated to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, where he turned down Mumia‘s appeals. The U.S. Supreme Court, in the “Williams decision” (also involving Castille), ruled it is unconstitutional for a judge who had previously been personally involved in a case to subsequently hear an appeal of the same case. If Mumia succeeds in getting the evidence released, he may have his appeal rights restored. That would open a legal path to overturning his bogus conviction for the killing of police officer Daniel Faulkner.
For background on Mumia‘s case see bolshevik.org/mumia.
We reprint below a lightly edited version of the speech given by IBT supporter Adaire Hannah at the Wellington rally.
Today, we stand here in solidarity with Mumia Abu-Jamal as in a few hours time, in a Philadelphia court, evidence will be heard that in 1982 Ronald Castille, of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office, intervened in the prosecution of Mumia and was, years later, a judge on the Philadelpha Supreme Court sitting in judgement over Mumia’s case. This behaviour, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled, is illegal.
Mumia joined the Black Panthers Party as a 14 year old and was an active member until its implosion in 1970.
He became a radio journalist while at college. He saw journalism as a means of exposing police brutality, racism, oppression and exploitation. Philadelphia police were notorious for their corruption, and harassment of the working poor and the oppressed. In 1980, Mumia was elected the president of Philadelphia’s Association of Black Journalists and in January 1981 the Philadelphia Magazine noted him as someone to watch.
In December 1981, Mumia was arrested for allegedly killing Daniel Faulkner, a Philadelphia police officer.
The police provided contradictory evidence: forensic evidence disappeared; witnesses were coerced to lie; and Mumia was repeatedly denied his legal rights. And we all remember the infamous statement by the judge, Albert Sabo, that he would “fry the nigger”.
Even an affidavit provided in June 1999, by the man who actually did kill Daniel Faulkner, has been denied consideration.
Mumia’s case exposes that there is no justice for the poor, oppressed and exploited. The capitalist system is rigged against us which is why we, the International Bolshevik Tendency, have never called for a retrial of Mumia’s case.
Mumia was framed for the murder of Daniel Faulkner because of his political commitment fighting against injustice and oppression. He would not be silenced.
For three decades Mumia was condemned to solitary confinement on death row. In December 2011, the death penalty was lifted but Mumia was condemned to a life sentence without parole.
In 2016, we met here to protest at the refusal of the judicial system to provide Mumia with medical treatment for his Hepatitis C condition. His ill health was ignored until he lost consciousness. It seemed that the judicial system, having failed to execute him, was prepared to allow him to die from a treatable disease.
The involvement of the workers movement in the fight to free Mumia is crucial, involvement such as that of the April 1999 ILWU members who stopped work from San Diego to Bellingham for a day.
Winning Mumia’s freedom is part of the struggle for our liberation.
His incarceration for a crime he did not commit is one of hundreds of thousands of examples of how capitalist justice is class justice. Here in New Zealand, if you are part of the working poor, Maori, Pasifika, homeless, unemployed or suffering from mental health issues, you will be over represented in the prisons.
That racism is a structural component of capitalism is exemplified by the American and New Zealand judicial systems. Maori make up about 15% of our population but make up over half of the prison muster.
We need to defy the labour laws that restrict our right to strike for anything other than our own contract renewals. We need to reject this political silencing of workers and the oppressed by united class action.
Today, we stand in solidarity with Mumia against this unjust system. However, justice for workers and the oppressed can only be achieved by the overthrow of the capitalist system which exploits and oppresses us.
Free Mumia Abu-Jamal!