Teach-in for Mumia says
'Let the evidence be heard'
By Heather Cottin
Philadelphia, April 6
The drums of the Sori-Mori--Korean political activist musicians--blended with African percussion on the streets of downtown Philadelphia April 6 as close to 1,000 people chanted, "Brick by brick, wall by wall, we're gonna free Mumia Abu-Jamal." With their signs thrust into the air, their banners and liberation flags billowing in the wind, the crowd surged down Broad Street and rallied in front of Benjamin Franklin High School, where Abu-Jamal as a youth had organized for the Black Panther Party.
The multinational group held up signs asking passing cars to "Honk for Mumia." Scores of drivers responded with horns and fists in support of his freedom. After a brief but lively rally everyone went into the school to attend a teach-in, "Let the Evidence be Heard!," organized by International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
This was a people's victory. It was the first time the movement in Philadelphia had been able to win the use of this public facility so that more could hear the truth about the trial and struggle of this death-row prisoner.
Pam Africa of ICFFMAJ explained how Judge Pamela Dembe has ruled against allowing evidence to be examined that has emerged only in the past year. Dembe is acting on behalf of the police and district attorney, not according to the law, said Africa.
Judge William H. Yohn, who threw out Abu-Jamal's death sentence on technicalities last December, has blocked the review of a voluntary confession by Arnold Beverly and other evidence discovered by Abu-Jamal's new legal team. Beverly says he committed the murder of a Philadelphia police officer for which Abu-Jamal was convicted.
Pam Africa's uncompromising stand and her powerful demand for Abu-Jamal's supporters to "organize and organize" inspired the activists to resist fear and threats. Pam Africa called for renaming the building Mumia Abu-Jamal High School. When Abu-Jamal was there as a militant student, he had called for the school to be renamed Malcolm X High.
Youth provide 'Edutainment'
The organizers included youth in the Philadelphia area who support Abu-Jamal, so the program included an exhilarating and youthful cultural component called "Edutainment." The six-hour teach-in featured videos and speakers as well as international supporters of Abu-Jamal. Because ICFFMAJ and Act Now to Stop War & End Racism (ANSWER) had leafleted at a rally in support of the Palestinian people two days earlier, the representation of Moslem activists at the teach-in was sizeable.
One of Abu-Jamal's lawyers, Elliot Grossman, gave a detailed analysis of the present state of the case and the organizers provided for a question-and-answer period for the audience to query him about specifics.
The speakers included a delegation from France, where support for Abu-Jamal is strong among social activists, and a Palestinian, Dr. Shouki Kassis of the Arab-American Discrimination Committee. Jesse Corwin of the Native American Youth Movement spoke as well as Father Luis Barrios, who called for the ending of U.S. Navy bombing of Vieques, Puerto Rico.
Barrios told the audience to stand up for a prayer. It was, "U.S. Navy out of Vieques, Puerto Rico, Mumia Abu-Jamal out of prison!" which everyone chanted in ringing tones.
Radio station WBIX covered the teach-in live.
In the latter part of the program, Elombe Brath of the Patrice Lumumba Coalition related Abu-Jamal's case to the struggle in Africa and specifically to Zimbabwe, where the government has been distributing land to the people. Ron Johnson of the Coalition of Blacks for Reparations spoke, as did Frank Morales, who condemned the Patriot Act and the repression which, since 9/11, has added Muslims in the United States to the groups "racially profiled" by cops and now federal authorities.
Other speakers called for an end to Bush's endless war, which has targeted Iraq, Colombia, Yemen and other poor nations while the money for the military is siphoned out of poor communities.
Philadelphia is a case in point. Official unemployment here jumped from 4.2 percent in December 2001 to 5.5 percent in February, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while the Bush administration was handing over hundreds of billions of dollars to its cronies, the military-industrial robber barons.
Because Mumia Abu-Jamal is outspokenly opposed to the war on the poor and U.S. imperialism, evidence presented at the teach-in linked every major struggle in the world to his case.
Larry Holmes of International ANSWER addressed the house with news of his recent visit with Abu-Jamal.
"All he wanted to talk about was Palestine," said Holmes. Holmes and Workers World Party's Monica Moorehead had met with Abu-Jamal for over five hours in late March. He denounced Israel's genocidal attacks on the Palestinian people.
Abu-Jamal talked about the Intifada, Holmes reported, and was confident that the Palestinian resistance had produced a direct hit on Bush's war drive.
The death-row prisoner compared the Palestinian struggle to the resistance of the children in Soweto in 1976. This struggle is so popular today that it has united the entire world against Israeli occupation and the U.S. government's support of the Israeli war criminals, just as the struggle in Soweto crystallized international resistance to apartheid.
Abu-Jamal talked exultantly about the millions of people who support the Palestinians, and Holmes, who is a director of the International Action Center and a member of the International ANSWER coalition, told the assembly that the coalition's April 20 March on Washington will be in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and against the U.S. war drive, while it continues to demand freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal.
"We are all Palestinians," Holmes said, and the house took up the chant.
Millions 4 Mumia/International Action Center
39 W. 14th St. Room 206, NYC, NY 10011
Fax: 212-633-2889, www.iacenter.org
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