IMPORTANT GUIDELINES FOR TALKING (& E-MAILING)
ABOUT WHAT YOU SAW IN PHILLY
from the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal
Posted Dec. 11, 2001
Even though people want to spread the word right away about their experience in Philadelphia at the December 8 demonstration, it's very important that when writing e-mails, speaking to the media (whether it's CNN or your friend's independent 'zine), or in other conversations, everyone have a few guidelines at the forefront of their minds. PLEASE, read the guidelines below, and let fellow activists know to read them, before you do interviews, speak at events, speak to media, and just in general conversations.
1. Although anyone who was at the Dec. 8 march knows that the police attacked the protestors, unprovoked, and we want to get the truth out there right away, we have to balance our desire to tell every single detail to the public with the needs of our six friends and fellow activists who are facing severe felony charges. In order that we not endanger these defendants, we have to keep from making ANY statements that could be taken out of
context by the Philadelphia District Attorney's office and twisted around to sound like it incriminates them.
Because of this, IT IS FINE TO DESCRIBE WHAT THE POLICE DID TO US, BUTDO NOT TALK ABOUT THE ACTIONS OF DEMONSTRATORS. For instance: a person might say something like, "The cops went to hit this girl, and her friends tried to protect her," and a prosecutor could try to use that quote as evidence that her friends physically went up against the cops, even though they did no such thing.
2. Secondly, we can SPEAK ABOUT THE GENERAL ATMOSPHERE of what happened on December 8th, but DO NOT GO INTO DETAILS like names, physical descriptions of people, etcetera. Focus on what it felt like to be on the street, and the attitude of the cops, instead - and save the more detailed descriptions for interviews with ICFFMAJ's legal volunteers and lawyers. If you witnessed the events, call ICFFMAJ as soon as possible at 215-476-5416. Do not tell us over the phone what you saw; we just want to get your name, phone number and other contact information.
3. If you or anyone you know has VIDEO OR PHOTO FOOTAGE of the events, please CONTACT US IMMEDIATELY at 215-476-5416. We have to begin collecting this footage right away to build the defenses of our six activists facing felony charges.
4. If you haven't already, WRITE DOWN A JOURNAL ENTRY TODAY OF EVERYTHING YOU SAW AND HEARD during the attack by police, IN AS MUCH DETAIL AS YOU CAN REMEMBER. Trials can take months or years to finish, and the more time that goes by before you are interviewed by legal folks, the easier it is to forget what you saw with your own eyes and what you only overheard.
Plus, it's impossible for you to know now what details and descriptions may be the saving grace for someone else's defense in the future - even the most unimportant-sounding details may end up being crucial. Write down everything from how many minutes passed between incidents to the color of people's clothing. Then put your writing in a safe place that you can remember.
5. News media has played up the story as a riot started by out-of-control protestors, where police were forced to protect themselves. Get out there and tell the truth! But while you're doing it, REMEMBER TO BRING THE FOCUS BACK TO THE REASON WE WERE THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE - the need for Mumia to have ALL the evidence heard, now, in Judge Yohn's court, and receive justice after 20 years. As the government tries to distract us, and make it impossible for us to carry out our work by throwing court cases at us, Mumia is still in very active danger of being executed in the near future if we don't force them to do right.
You may want to call the ICFFMAJ office before doing interviews, especially if you have any questions about how to speak with media. In addition, members of the media can contact Jodi Dodd at 215-563-7110. We have several witnesses (including arrestees) available to speak to the press, and can put them in contact with the press if we are contacted.
ICFFMAJ, Jodi Dodd 215-563-7110
International Action Center
39 West 14th Street, Room 206
New York, NY 10011
email: [email protected]
fax: 212 633-2889
phone: 212 633-6646