Building for Mumia Awareness Week

Credit: Jennifer Beach
Mumia Abu-Jamal
By: Marlene Martin

The fight to save Mumia Abu-Jamal has reached a critical stage.

The possibility of an execution date this fall -- as reported by the Philadelphia Daily News -- looms over the case, though Mumia's lawyers say the threat can't be substantiated.

Mumia's appeal was denied by the state last year, but it is presently before the federal courts. It would be unusual for an execution date to be set for a death row prisoner whose case is pending federal appeal. But this particular prisoner is Mumia.

Given the fact that Mumia has never lost at the federal level, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and its allies are getting nervous. It is no coincidence, for instance, that a Vanity Fair story (click here to see story in this issue) smearing Mumia appeared not long after tens of thousands of activists mobilized for two large demonstrations in Philadelphia and San Francisco. As Mumia said in a recent interview, "This is the latest fabrication. It is a lie standing on top of two or three other lies, and it shows their sense of desperation that people don't believe their lies anymore."

The need for the FOP to see Mumia executed is enormous. They need to maintain its credibility -- and show that anyone who opposes them will pay. That's why the FOP has spent huge amounts of money and time on their fierce assault against Mumia. They understand the symbol that Mumia has become.

Heaped upon Mumia is not only the wrath of the FOP but the racist court system. Add to that the oppressive conditions he faces in prison -- locked up 23 hours a day in his cell. Yet Mumia remains one of the most eloquent and productive journalists today. He rails against the prison industry, the death penalty and racism. If Mumia wins a new trial, a cheer of victory will go up in every death row cell block across the country. It will give renewed vigor to all of those fighting against the racist prison system -- and show that we can win justice if we come together and fight for it.

The fight to save Mumia has always been about more than Mumia alone. It is a fight for justice, a fight to expose racism and a fight against class oppression. Mumia has become the voice for countless others who rot away in their prison cells every day.

Every chapter of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty should make fighting to save Mumia a focus of their work in the coming months. The Campaign's fall kickoff activities should involve organizing around Mumia Awareness Week, which will be September 19-25. Many chapters around the country are planning Live from Death Row events. Others are showing the film A Case for Reasonable Doubt and putting together panel discussions. If an execution date is set, we should be part of emergency response demonstrations and speakouts planned in every area of the country.

As Mumia recently put it, "We do what we must because we understand the nature of the system. We understand that justice is not a right that is granted to people [but] that people must fight for it."