OWC CAMPAIGN NEWS - distributed by the Open World Conference in Defense of Trade Union Independence & Democratic Rights, c/o S.F. Labor Council, 1188 Franklin St., #203, San Francisco, CA 94109.
[Note: The following greetings were read to the 3500 participants at the Free Mumia rally in Los Angeles on August 13 by Alan Benjamin, editor of The Organizer newspaper and member of the Continuations Committee of the Open World Conference.]
The International Committee to Save the Life of Mumia Abu-Jamal sends greetings to all those assembled in Los Angeles on August 13 to demand a new trial and freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Our Committee was formed close to a year ago at an international rally in Paris, France, of close to 10,000 workers and youth who came together to build support for the Open World Conference in Defense of Trade Union Independence and Democratic Rights, which took place in San Francisco last February.
Our Committee was founded just a few months before the scheduled December 2 execution of Mumia. In response to this threat, the Committee decided to circulate an "Open Letter to Bill Clinton" urging him, given the powers of his high office, to intervene to guarantee a new trial for Mumia, one in which Mumia could fully demonstrate his innocence. Specifically, the Committee called on Clinton to direct Janet Reno to order a federal investigation into the 29 violations of Mumia's due process, Constitutional and civil rights.
This Open Letter has gathered more than 1.5 million signatures in 70 countries on all continents. On the basis of this Open Letter, an international delegation of trade union leaders, political figures, and elected officials traveled to Washington, DC, on January 12. The delegation was received by top-level officials at the U.S. Department of Justice, who told the delegation that, yes, Clinton and Reno do have the power to intervene - and that, yes, it is fully within the purview of the Justice Department to open an investigation into the violation of Mumia's rights.
The International Committee to Save the Life of Mumia Abu-Jamal also participated actively in the May 13th International Day of Action to Free Mumia, with demonstrations, rallies and delegations to U.S. embassies and consulates in 70 countries. In France alone there were demonstrations in the streets of more than 50 cities.
Today a concerted media campaign is being promoted internationally to prepare world public opinion for the assassination of Mumia Abu-Jamal. From the pages of Time magazine and the columns of prominent mainstream newspapers, we are being treated to article after article with the following message: Yes, the struggle against the death penalty may have merit, but Mumia is guilty. "Good Cause, Wrong Guy" is what they call it.
Le Monde, one of France's major dailies, carried a feature story on Mumia on August 3 focusing on a young activist in Philadelphia named Frank, who allegedly was a member of the Free Mumia coalition on his college campus before "realizing" that his efforts were misdirected. The paper quotes Frank as saying that now that he has looked more closely at Mumia's dossier, he realizes Mumia is guilty. This is just one of the many recent sophisticated hit pieces.
In the aftermath of the heinous June 22 assassination of Shaka Sankofa, and as the presidential elections approach, they want to convince world public opinion - based on the same old lies and without any mention of all the new evidence pointing to Mumia's innocence - that Mumia should not be defended, as he is "guilty."
Mumia is in critical danger! Let us renew our pledge that we will not let Mumia be assassinated!
A few weeks ago, the convention of the California Labor Federation (AFL-CIO) unanimously voted a resolution which calls upon Justice Yohn to hear Mumia Abu-Jamal's new evidence and witnesses. In the event Yohn refuses to set a new trial, the resolution continues, "the President of the United States should [then] intercede and order a new trial."
This resolution points the way forward. Yes, Clinton must intervene -- immediately. He was the authority to do so!
Let us mobilize in greater numbers, winning support from our trade unions and community organizations, from our campus and high school committees, to demand that Clinton intervene.
The International Committee to Save the Life of Mumia Abu-Jamal calls upon all workers and activists around the world who are engaged in the fight to free Mumia: If Judge Yohn refuses to hear Mumia's new evidence and witnesses, let us organize a broad-based delegation to the White House in Washington to tell the president directly, in the name of millions of people across the globe, that he must use his high office to order a federal investigation into the violation of Mumia's rights. Such an investigation, without a doubt, would pave the way for a new trial!
For a new trial for Mumia Abu-Jamal!
Stop the Execution!
By The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- More than 3,500 protesters marching in support of a death row inmate jammed downtown streets Sunday, putting police on edge with deafening screams and sending shoppers and business owners fleeing for cover.
There were no reports of arrests, and the only disruptions seemed to be among shoppers and storeowners startled by the noisy marchers.
Demonstrators walked shoulder-to-shoulder, jumping up and down as they made their way to the Staples Center, with officers in riot gear blocking off streets outside of the approved parade route. Protesters occasionally broke apart from the crowd.
Families pushing babies in strollers fled drugstores and souvenir shops as they saw the crowd approach. Store owners rolled down steel doors over their storefronts and ran inside as marchers got close.
The protest in support of Mumia Abu-Jamal, on death row for killing a Philadelphia police officer in 1981, was the first major gathering of demonstrators massing in Los Angeles for the Democratic National Convention, which starts Monday.
In the Abu-Jamal protest, activists gathered at Pershing Square and rallied for more than two hours before their 12-block march.
When the group reached the fenced-in protest area outside the convention site, a Latino band took the stage, protesters chanted ``Free Mumia'' and other slogans, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson passed buckets through the crowd seeking donations for Abu-Jamal's defense.
The biggest attraction was a hose the Fire Department tied to a fence, creating a makeshift fountain for sun-beaten demonstrators. Protesters ran with arms outstretched to dance in the artificial rain, shouting ``Thank you! Thank you!''
Jeff Mackler, Abu-Jamal's defense coordinator, read a statement from the prisoner opposing both major political parties.
``If you vote for one of the two hated dogs of American politics, you are voting for your own oppression,'' the statement said.
Some distributed leaflets for protests scheduled later in the week while others waved picket signs opposing the death penalty. One sign read, ``Not one more lynching'' and was emblazoned with a picture of Abu-Jamal, convicted of killing an officer in 1981. Supporters contend Abu-Jamal, who is black, was framed by racist police.
A wooden wall etched with thousands of names of alleged victims of police brutality was set up along one edge of the square.
By supporting the death penalty, Al Gore and George W. Bush have continued to ``march the retarded, the young and quite possibly the innocent to their deaths,'' actor and activist Ed Asner told the crowd.
``This fight is for our very souls,'' he said. ``Mumia must not die!''
Police began working 12-hour shifts, sending out hundreds of additional officers to gird for a week of demonstrations. Abortion rights activists, environmentalists and striking workers at a Santa Monica hotel also planned rallies Sunday.
At the protesters' headquarters near MacArthur Park, nicknamed the Convergence Center, demonstrators were taught Sunday how to cope with tear gas and pepper spray and how to behave when confronted by police.
Others made banners, picket signs and large, satiric puppets for demonstrations outside the Staples Center this week.
(Copyright 2000 The New York Times Company)
(Column Written by Mumia Abu-Jamal, 8/1/2000, All Rights Reserved)
The fact that millions of people take part in a delusion doesn't make it sane. -- Erich Fromm [(1900-1980) Psychoanalyst]
Although American political convention fever has begun, and with it an infestation of media frenzy, people are increasingly sensing a sickening sameness of both the Republican and Democratic parties. The made-for-TV convention spectacles are the productions of multi-billion dollar corporations, presented by politicians on behalf of big business. The poor truly need not apply. They are invited to vote, or not to vote, as they wish, for even if a minority of Americans even participate in the elections (as was the case in the 1996 U.S. Presidential race), it matters little. A simple majority of the voting minority suffices. The notion that there is really no significant difference between the two parties is not a new one. A half century ago, radical scholar-activist W.E.B. Dubois wrote about the "two evils" posed by the two major parties:
"In 1956, I shall not go to the polls... I believe that democracy has so far disappeared in the United States that no 'two evils' exist. There is but one evil party with two names, and it will be elected despite all I can do or say.... [H]ow does Stevenson differ from Eisenhower? He uses better English than Dulles, thank God! He has a sly humor, where Eisenhower has none. ... I have no advice for others in this election. Are you voting Democratic? Well and good; all I ask is why? Are you voting for Eisenhower and his smooth team of bright ghost writers? Again, why? Will your helpless vote either way support or restore democracy to America?" [from The Nation, 20 Oct., 1956]
The renowned historians Will and Ariel Durant noted, in "The Lessons of History" (1968), that "... [T]he men who can manage men manage the men who can manage only things, and the men who can manage money manage all" (p. 54).
The politicians are people who manage those who manage things; the corporations manage politicians. It was the forces of wealth that controlled those ridiculous stage-managed conventions. Do you have any question about the power of wealth? Well, consider this. There are two citizens. One paid $50,000 to the candidate, or the party. The other didn't give any money, but, after serious study, voted for the candidate. Now, which "citizen" will be able to rap with, spend time with, and really gain the ear of the candidate? What does that really tell you about your role in the process, or the relative "importance" of voter participation or big contributors?
The two-party monopoly on power is to protect the interests of the rich, not average, everyday working people. Over a century ago, the Whig party dissolved, and the Republicans came into being from its detritus. It's time to truly develop an alternative; a third party to speak for and represent the interests of the poor, the worker, and those on the outside of the party for the wealthy. That time is long overdue.
(by C. Clark Kissinger, 8/8/00)
The Philadelphia Daily News reported today that federal judge William H. Yohn has officially refused to accept any of the four amicus briefs filed with the court in the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. Amicus briefs are legal arguments submitted to the court by persons or organizations who are not party to the case but who assert an interest in its outcome.
In Mumia's case, four different amicus briefs have been filed with the court since the beginning of the year. The first, from the Philadelphia NAACP and the Pennsylvania ACLU, argues that the use of Mumia's political statements as an argument for the death penalty was unconstitutional and chilled the free expression of ideas by others.
The second brief was submitted six legal organizations: the National Lawyers Guild, the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, the National Conference of Black Lawyers, the Prisoners Self Help Legal Clinic, and the Southern Poverty Law Center. This brief dealt with the history and significance of federal habeas corpus review of state court convictions.
The third brief was submitted by a group of 22 members of the British Parliament. This brief criticized the trial court's refusal to allow John Africa to sit at the defense table to advise Mumia, pointing that such lay advisors are a basic right in English law.
The fourth brief was submitted by the Chicana/Chicano Studies Foundation and dealt with a number of issues including: denial of Mumia's right to represent himself, an improper conference between Mumia's lawyer and the judge, the removal of a juror and her replacement by an alternate who had declared that he could not be unbiased, and several issues of law.
Amicus briefs are an important part of any legal struggle around important social issues. It is a way that the public and other parties who are affected by the outcome of a case can have a voice in that outcome. While amicus briefs are more common at the appellate level, they are used at the district court level when important question of law are being tested.
The Daily News quotes Yohn as saying he was aware of the worldwide interest in the case, but that additional briefs are "unnecessary and unhelpful." We have to ask, unhelpful to whom? Even the Pennsylvania Supreme Court accepted an amicus brief from the NAACP and the ACLU on the same issue when they reviewed a lower court's denial of a new trial for Mumia.
People should protest this unjustified ruling by Judge Yohn and make these briefs widely available for others to read. All four amicus briefs are available at www.refuseandresist.org/mumia/court.html, where the issues and exposure that Judge Yohn does not want made part of the record can be viewed and downloaded.
A major issue in the current petition for a writ of habeas corpus has been the demand for the federal court to hear the evidence and issues that were suppressed by the Pennsylvania courts.
Growing Labor Support
"The labor movement has to show it's not going to sit in the bleachers while someone is being sent to the gallows," says Walter Johnson, Secretary-Treasurer of the San Francisco Labor Council. "This case is important to humanity, to all people. We in labor must be the social conscience of America."
The California Labor Federation, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the United Farm Workers Union (UFW), the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), the National Writers Union (UAW 1981), the United Electrical Workers (UE), the California Nurses Association (CNA), the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), the California Federation of Teachers (CFT), the Canadian Auto Workers union, and scores of AFL-CIO central labor councils and local unions around the U.S., as well as unions around the world, have demanded justice for Abu-Jamal.
In addition, teachers unions in several major metropolitan areas have conducted teach-ins that have greatly contributed to public awareness of the issues involved in Abu-Jamal's case.
"We in labor need to go beyond our most immediate issues to take up issues of social justice," says Karega Hart, President of the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 1574, "If we do not address injustices such as Mumia's, how can we expect others to support our battles?"
The Legal Situation
Despite all the judicial and prosecutorial misconduct of his trial, Abu-Jamal's appeals for a new trial have been denied in the Pennsylvania courts, and last October Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge signed Abu-Jamal's death warrant.
Federal District Court Judge William H. Yohn, Jr. issued a stay of execution that will keep Abu-Jamal alive at least through the federal court proceedings. The defense team, in the Federal appeal has shown 29 violations of Abu-Jamal's constitutional rights and 675 instances of police misconduct, judicial errors and factual flaws in Abu-Jamal's trial, sentencing, and post-conviction proceedings.
Some of these violations included the denial of competent defense, including his right of self- representation. Abu-Jamal was barred from the courtroom during much of the proceedings, in which African-Americans were systematically excluded from the jury. Witnesses were intimidated and coerced; vital evidence was falsified or suppressed; his writings were used by prosecutors (illegally and unconstitutionally) to argue for the death penalty - a trial presided over by a judge who has sentenced 33 people to death (all but two of them people of color), more than any other sitting judge in the U.S.-in short, a trial which denied Abu-Jamal his basic Constitutional rights.
The next few months will be crucial in determining Abu-Jamal's fate. Attorney General Reno and the Department of Justice are mandated by law to protect the Constitutional rights of U.S. citizens. They have the power to intervene in Abu-Jamal's case and see that justice is done. And as trade unionists we have to join the millions around the world who demand that they do just that. [See accompanying Labor For Mumia appeal to Janet Reno.]
The Labor Movement must continue to champion the struggle against injustice. As we have in the past, we must stand shoulder to shoulder with the African American community in combating racial injustice. This is true even when that injustice is handed down by a white man in a black robe, shrouded by the aura of the criminal justice system.
Please add your name to the campaign. Secure the endorsement of your Union, Council or related organization. Organize a Mumia Awareness Committee in your local. Help us reach out to the ranks of labor to win this struggle for freedom, justice and equality. Together we shall be heard.
LABOR FOR MUMIA:
Voice: (510) 665-5810
Fax: (415) 440-9297
c/o San Francisco Labor Council
1188 Franklin St. Suite 203
San Francisco, CA 94109
web page: www.aspenlinx.com/labor
(distributed by Labor For Mumia)
We trade unionists demand justice for our union brother, award-winning journalist and National Writers Union member (UAW Local 1981), Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Abu-Jamal has been on death row for the last 18 years, convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer and sentenced to death in a trial that can only be described as a travesty of justice:
In short, it is clear that Mumia Abu-Jamal was denied his basic Constitutional rights. He was targeted for this treatment because, as a Philadelphia journalist, he stood up for poor and working people.
He was spied on and harassed as a part of the illegal government COlNTELPRO operation against Black and other anti-establishment organizers, even though he had never been convicted of breaking any law.
In spite of new evidence indicating Abu-Jamal's innocence, including witnesses recanting their original testimony, Abu-Jamal's right to a fair trial has been consistently denied in the courts. This is a situation all too common for people of color on death row, a product of the racism and class bias in the criminal justice system.
During his 18 years on death row, Abu-Jamal's writings have been repeatedly censored, as he has sought to expose injustice. As Abu-Jamal himself puts it, "They don't just want my death, they want my silence."
The injustice that has been done to Mumia Abu-Jamal - the denial of his Constitutional rights- is an injustice and a threat to us all.
Attorney General Janet Reno, justice demands that you intervene to guarantee the rights of Mumia Abu-Jamal. We demand that you guarantee Abu-Jamal's right to a new trial. We demand justice. Anything less would amount to your complicity.
Please return completed form to: Labor for Mumia, c/o San Francisco Labor Council, 1188 Franklin St., suite 203, San Francisco, CA 94109, or return by email to <labor4Mumia@aspenlinx.com>. Please send copies to <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
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