Demonstrate for Mumia on April 24

By: Katherine Gorell

The world’s most famous political prisoner, Mumia Abu-Jamal, has been in prison for 21 years after being falsely convicted and condemned to death for the killing of Daniel Faulkner, a white Philadelphia policeman. Even after more than two decades of suffering the daily injustice of being imprisoned, Mumia Abu-Jamal and his supporters continue to fight for a new trial and are planning a demonstration for April 24, 2004, in Phildalephia, on Mumia’s 50th birthday.

Despite the fact that federal and state appeals courts continue to refuse to hear the key testimony of Arnold Beverly, who has admitted responsibility in Officer Faulkner’s death, Mumia’s world renowned struggle is again coming back the radar of abolitionists everywhere. For years, he has represented the struggle against racism and the death penalty for supporters all over the world. The campaign to free him hit a high mark in 1999 when tens of thousands marched in Phildelphia at the "Millions for Mumia" protest to demand a new trial.

But support for Mumia continues around the globe. In France, where the death penalty was banned in 1981, a ceremony was held in Paris in October to mark Mumia’s honorary citizenship.

Throughout the history of Mumia’s legal battle, there have been many moments of hope, but too many where bloodthirsty officials dismissed justice out of hand. For example, when U.S. District Judge William H. Yohn ruled "innocence is no defense" in July of 2001, arrogantly declaring the need for "finality." This begs the question, "What is a defense?" The 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), approved by Congress to justify the death penalty, backed up this cynical maneuver.

On October 8, 2003, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled against Mumia’s habeas corpus appeal requesting a new trial. Despite Mumia’s waiting over two decades for evidence of his innocence to be heard, the Supreme Court "...concluded it was without jurisdiction to address the merits of [Mumia’s] claims, and dismissal without a hearing was appropriate." This new development is a setback for the struggle to win Mumia’s freedom. The numerous roadblocks from the courts mean that we have to revitalize the movement in the streets.

Racists like Judge Albert Sabo, who convicted Mumia, and the Fraternal Order of Police are hoping that, after so long, activists have forgotten about Mumia’s plight. It’s time to mark the anniversary of Mumia’s original "guilty" verdict by bringing the battle for Mumia’s freedom back into the national stoplight.