An innocent man, and an eloquent spokesman for working people and all the oppressed, is threatened with execution in Pennsylvania. Mumia Abu-Jamal was framed in 1981 allegedly for killing a police officer; but his real "crime" was being an articulate defender of the black community against brutal police repression, a strong opponent of racism and exploitation and an award-winning radio journalist-in short being, as he was called, the "voice of the voiceless." Mumia's need for support and solidarity is urgent, since his appeal for a new trial has been turned down by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and he faces an imminent death warrant.
Mumia's trial was a mockery of justice from beginning to end.
In 1995, the scandalous corruption of the Philadelphia police burst onto the front pages: frame-ups based on false confessions, planted evidence, and coerced witnesses were rampant. More than 300 hundred cases were thrown out, and many innocent victims set free. But Jamal's case was not included. The reason? He was a leading critic of police violence against the minority communities of Philadelphia! The FBI and police amassed hundreds of pages of surveillance files on Jamal, beginning when he was 15 years old, because he was a member of the Black Panther Party. Yet Jamal had no criminal record when he was charged with the 1981 cop-killing! Mumia is, in fact, a political prisoner.
The working class, and especially militant black workers, have always been the chief target of the bosses' political repression. The Haymarket martyrs were victimized in an effort to stop the movement for the 8-hour day, while Joe Hill was executed at the peak of the imperialist war fever in 1915. Sacco and Vanzetti were framed and executed for a crime they did not commit in the 1920s as part of an anti-"red" and anti-immigrant campaign. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were victims of the post-World War II McCarthyite witchhunt. In the early 1930s, thousands demonstrated and managed to save the nine Scottsboro Boys, victims of a racist frame-up, from a legal lynching. And in the 1980s, Mumia Abu-Jamal was the victim of a racist crackdown on black militancy in the wake of the US' the humiliating defeat of the US in Vietnam.
Mumia Abu-Jamal knows the importance of Labor Solidarity
Despite the imminent threat of death hanging over him, he refused to be interviewed by strikebreakers for ABC-TV's "20/20" program, in support of locked-out union camera operators and technicians in NABET/CWA. Jamal also publicly supported the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) in 1998 in that union's victorious "Neptune Jade" struggle against employer victimization over an act of international solidarity. The labor movement today is in a struggle for survival against increasingly aggressive employers and their government henchmen.
Privatizations and "free trade" treaties like NAFTA undermine jobs and working conditions world-wide, while historic anti-labor laws continue to bind workers' hands by limiting solidarity actions like secondary boycotts. As the rich get richer and the poor get poorer under both Democrats and Republicans, police repression, prisons and the death penalty are more and more important as tools to keep the workers and oppressed in line. The "Effective Death Penalty Act" of 1996, signed by Bill Clinton, drastically limited the right of appeal to federal courts from state death penalty cases. Meanwhile the Supreme Court has said that even the innocent could be executed under certain conditions! The fight to free political prisoners such as Mumia Abu-Jamal is just as much a part of labor's struggle against capital as the defense of our picket lines against scabs, and the bosses cops and courts.
Mumia Abu-Jamal is probably the most censored commentator of our time.
The official persecution of Jamal grows directly out of the murderous COINTELPRO campaign by police and FBI to wipe out the Black Panthers. Many party members were killed in shoot-outs, or framed up and put away. But in Jamal's case, the purpose of his incarceration is more to silence him than to kill him, since he was such an effective and respected journalist: he was a winner of the Major Armstrong award for radio journalism, president of the Philadelphia Black Journalists Association, and named as one of the city's "people to watch" in 1981 by Philadelphia magazine. In 1994, then-Senator Bob Dole intervened on the floor of Congress, at the behest of the Philadelphia police, to keep Jamal's taped-in-prison commentaries from being heard on National Public Radio.
"The state would rather give me an Uzi than a microphone," said Mumia. "My offense is painting an uncomplimentary picture of a prison system that eats hundreds of millions of dollars a year to torture and main tens of thousands of men and women."
Many unions and union leaders have joined the growing list of supporters of Mumia Abu-Jamal's case, including the California Nurses Association (CNA), the United Farmworkers (UFW), the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), as well as Local 2 of the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union, AFSCME Local 829, and the South San Francisco Teachers Association (CTA), among others. The Alameda Central Labor Council passed a resolution commending Jamal for his acts of solidarity for NABET/CWA and longshore workers. But resolutions are not enough! Workers have the power to break the system of racism and exploitation. With militant union action, up to an including strike action, we can free Mumia Abu-Jamal.
The Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal has been organized to educate workers about Mumia's case, and promote labor action in solidarity with his struggle. Despite the attacks on labor, decline in union membership, etc., basic worker solidarity still lives. In recent times, longshoremen on the West Coast have honored picket lines and refused to unload ships in solidarity with black South African workers, Liverpool dockers, Australian wharfies and strikers at Oregon Steel. UPS workers showed that labor still has the ability to bring rapacious corporations to their knees. The Oakland Education Association (OEA) organized a teach-in on Mumia Abu-Jamal and the death penalty in the Oakland school system. We must work within the labor movement to bring about the biggest, most powerful response possible to this racist frame-up and pending execution. Join us!
Oakland CA. 20 January 1999