New Legal Action is a Path to Mumia Abu-Jamal’s
Freedom, But a Re-ignited International Mobilization is Critical for
by RACHEL WOLKENSTEIN, FEBRUARY 28, 2018,
For over three
decades thousands of organizations and hundreds of thousands of
individuals around the globe have mobilized to save Mumia Abu-Jamal from
execution, to overturn his conviction, to demand his freedom. Without
these international mobilizations, crucially including the organized
labor movement, we would not have saved Mumia from two warrants of
execution and compelled the state to concede defeat in trying to execute
him. Mumia is now off death row and out of solitary confinement in
prison general population.
Mumia remains on “slow death row,” life imprisonment without parole.
During the past two years an international campaign of call-ins,
protests at the prison and at the Pa. Department of Corrections (DOC),
and letters including labor resolutions won medical treatment for his
hepatitis-C. Medical malfeasance has left Mumia with cirrhosis of the
liver and the secondary symptoms of his decades-long hepatitis-C,
including a painful skin condition. Quality medical care in prison is an
Now, unfolding in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas is the latest
legal battle for Mumia’s freedom. It is a constitutional challenge to
his conviction, pursuant to a precedent-setting U.S. Supreme Court case,
Williams v. Pennsylvania (2016), based on the due process right to an
impartial appeal process which is violated if a prosecutor who had a
significant personal involvement is later a judge in the same case.
The prosecutor who aggressively fought and prevailed in getting the
Pennsylvania Supreme Court to uphold Mumia’s conviction and death
sentence in 1989 and to prevent the U.S. Supreme Court from considering
Mumia’s case was District Attorney Ronald D. Castille. Then as a justice
in the Pa. Supreme Court, Castille participated in the Pa. Supreme
Court’s deliberations, agreed with the arguments he had made as District
Attorney (DA), and denied those and numerous new legal challenges made
in Mumia’s appeals from 1998-2012.
If Mumia wins this court action the Pennsylvania state court appeal
denials from 1998-2012 upholding his conviction are vacated and appeal
rights restored; his conviction is open to be reversed in new appeals.
This is now the legal path to Mumia’s freedom.
All last year the District Attorney’s Office (DAO) insisted documents
evidencing DA Castille’s personal involvement in Mumia Abu-Jamal’s
appeal process and death sentence did not exist.
Since January 2, 2018 Mumia’s case and fourteen other similar cases have
been in the hands of District Attorney Larry Krasner, newly elected on a
“progressive program.” Notably, retired Justice Castille was appointed
to DA Krasner’s post-election advisory board. In court on January 17 and
again on February 26 Krasner’s DAO continued the stonewalling. The DAO
requested time for “further investigation” and “to “formulate an office
policy for their approach to these cases.”
At the conclusion of the court hearing on February 26, 2018 Judge Leon
Tucker once again ordered the DAO to produce a critical document and
curtailed the requested time for the next court proceedings. Another
status report conference is set for March 27, 2017. A full court hearing
will be April 30, 2018.
In fact, Judge Tucker already has in his hands—released from the DAO
files—the evidence that District Attorney Castille was pushing to ensure
that capital cases, including Mumia Abu-Jamal’s, were expedited and that
death warrants signed by the governor. This is the proof required under
Williams v. Pa.
April 30, 2018 is set to be decisive point in Mumia’s legal fight for
An international campaign is being re-ignited to free Mumia. To win this
legal action and the victory of Mumia’s freedom the activity of the
recent months must grow and deepen, making it clear that we will not
rest until Mumia walks out of prison a free man.
The San Francisco Labor Council (SFLC), comprised of 150 unions, with
more than 100,000 union members and family, unanimously adopted a
“Resolution to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal” on February 12, 2018. It is
powerful support, stating that Mumia’s new legal action “is an opening
toward Mumia’s freedom that again requires a massive campaign of
workers’ organizations worldwide.”
The SFLC follows International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU)
Local 10 and the actions of Doro-Chiba (Japanese Railway Workers Union);
the International Dockworkers Council, an association of 100,000
dockworkers over the world; the National Union of Metalworkers of South
Africa, the largest trade union in South Africa; the Maritime Union of
Australia (Queensland), UNITE, the largest union in Great Britain with
1.4 million members; Oakland Educators Association, United Steelworkers,
Local 8751, School Bus Drivers Union (Boston) and others in calling for
The International Offensive to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal is underway in
coordination with a demonstration in Philadelphia on April 30. This
follows the outpouring of international solidarity toward Mumia shown by
over 500 organizations and individuals from every continent except
Antarctica who responded to the December 9, 2017 International Call to
Release the District Attorney and Police Files Relevant to Mumia
Abu-Jamal’s Case and to Free Him (International Call). Signatories
included long-time advocates for Mumia—Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Angela
Davis, Edward Asner, Danny Glover, Dr. Cornel West, Alice Walker, Chris
Hedges, and Tariq Ali. The International Call was initiated by Mireille
Fanon- Mendes-France, President, Franz Fanon Foundation and Dr. Suzanne
Ross, International Spokesperson for International Concerned Family and
Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal (ICFFMAJ).
Fighting and winning Mumia’s freedom is not the struggle for just one
man. Using his voice and pen, having written eight books and recorded
over 3000 commentaries, Mumia Abu-Jamal inspires and educates millions
around the globe who identify with his fight against “the system” and
for justice for all humanity.
Mumia: “Fighting to Create Revolution”
In a 1989 interview on death row Mumia stated he is “fighting to create
revolution in America. Revolution means total change.” Mumia continues
to be steadfast in his political views. He has not been intimidated into
silence despite the decades on death row or now serving life
imprisonment without parole. Mumia continues opposition to the policies
of the American imperialist state, at home and abroad: the political
repression, racial oppression and class exploitation, imperialist war
and colonial depredations.
To the American capitalist state, governed through both the Democratic
and Republican parties, Mumia represents the specter of black revolt, of
defiant opposition to their system of racist oppression. All elements of
the criminal injustice system, with the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP)
in the forefront, colluded to kill this innocent man and have never
stopped in their attempts to silence him.
Mumia Abu-Jamal is in his 37th year of imprisonment, innocent and framed
for a murder he did not commit and sentenced to death for being a former
spokesman for the Black Panther Party, a MOVE supporter and a radical
journalist, known as the “voice of the voiceless.”
No court, not the Pennsylvania state courts nor the federal courts, have
taken account of the evidence of Mumia’s factual innocence in the 1981
murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner, or the total denial of due
process at his trial or post-conviction hearings, including that Judge
Albert Sabo was exposed and admitted that he was biased in favor of the
prosecution and police, and a racist determined to see Mumia convicted
and executed. At the time of Mumia’s trial, Judge Sabo remarked to
another judge, “Yeah, and I’m going to help them fry the n—-r.”
If Mumia’s petition is granted he can re-appeal all the Pa. Supreme
Court denials from 1998-2012. This could result in a new trial or
dismissal of the charges based on Mumia’s actual innocence and the
police, prosecutorial and judicial misconduct that resulted in his
frame-up conviction and death sentence. A new appeal by Mumia could
strike down his conviction because of the racial bias of judge Albert
Sabo who presided over both Mumia’s trial and post-conviction hearings
Ronald D. Castille, Philadelphia District Attorney, then Pa. Supreme
Ronald Castille was elected Philadelphia District Attorney in 1986,
after years as a senior assistant district attorney under District
Attorney Edward Rendell during the time of Mumia’s trial. The Fraternal
Order of Police (FOP) Lodge No. 5 named Castille its “Man of the Year”
in 1986 and in 1989 supported him for re-election. As DA, Castille
prosecuted Ramona Africa, the lone adult survivor of the incendiary
bombing of the MOVE commune by Philadelphia city officials, the police
and FBI. Eleven Black people, including 5 children were burned alive.
This was a racist act of state terror against MOVE. Castille convened a
grand jury to consider criminal charges against the Mayor, chiefs of the
police and fire departments, and others. After two years, no charges
To ensure that Mumia’s conviction and death sentence were not reversed
on appeal, Castille’s prosecutors argued that Pa. Supreme Court and U.S.
Supreme Court precedents should not apply to Mumia’s case and suppressed
evidence of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s policy and practice to
exclude Black people from serving as jurors. That required answering not
only the arguments made by Mumia’s lawyer, but also the amici curiae
briefs filed by the ACLU of Philadelphia and the National Conference of
The March 1989 Pa. Supreme Court denial of Mumia’s appeal that
rubber-stamped the prosecution arguments was not the end of Castille’s
involvement. Mumia made motions for re-argument, and filed two petitions
in the U.S. Supreme Court. Mumia’s supplemental pro se petition to the
U.S. Supreme Court in May 1990 emphasized the issue of the pattern and
practices of excluding Black people from serving on a jury. Castille
assigned his Deputy District Attorney Gayle Barthold McLaughlin to
oppose Mumia’s petition in the U.S. Supreme Court, substituting her for
a more junior prosecutor.
In 1994 Ronald Castille won a seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme court as
a “law and order” candidate, endorsed by 36,000 police officers of the
FOP. Castille bragged that his office had secured 45 death sentences and
that he prosecuted some of the city’s most “notorious criminals.”
After Castille was elected as a justice to the Pa. Supreme Court Mumia’s
lawyers made repeated motions to Castille to recuse himself from
participating in the appeals to the Pa. Supreme Court because of his
pro-death penalty, pro-police bias. Castille denied these motions,
asserting he had no personal knowledge of Mumia’s case and no bias
against him. Castille made the argument that he was not the only justice
on the Pa Supreme Court who was elected with the political and financial
support of the Fraternal Order of Police, but shared that distinction
with four other justices. In fact it is a norm that elected judges are
routinely former prosecutors and solicit financial and political support
from law enforcement.
In Williams v. Pennsylvania, for the first time in American judicial
history the Supreme Court established an “objective test” in criminal
cases that the “due process right to an impartial tribunal free of
judicial bias” is violated where the judge previously had “significant
personal involvement in a critical prosecutorial decision” in the same
case. Mumia’s new petition is based on the precedent set in Williams and
was filed on August 7, 2016. Fourteen other men, also prosecuted by
Castille and who received death sentences, filed “Williams” petitions.
In Williams the U.S. Supreme Court deliberately did not rule it is
automatically a conflict of interest and due process violation if a
prosecutor in a case became a judge in that same case; or that political
and financial support from the FOP is evidence of bias. Such a ruling
would have been an unacceptable strike at the ideological core of the
U.S. criminal injustice system, the claim the judicial system is neutral
and fair and that its operational components—police, prosecution and
courts— are duty bound to act to protect the populace, to seek justice,
not convictions. The reality is a legal system that protects the
interests of the capitalist class, defending the profit system against
the working people, particularly Black people and other minorities,
immigrants; against any and all perceived opponents of this government’s
To establish bias, Williams requires evidence that as a prosecutor,
Castille had significant personal involvement in a critical
prosecutorial decision in Mumia’s case. And the “proof” of that personal
involvement is being interpreted as locating a specific document or
other evidence of Castille’s personal involvement in Mumia’s case. This
procedure poses an apparent conflict of interest. Prosecutors are tasked
to produce evidence of judicial misconduct committed by a former
The FOP, DA Ronald Castille and the early Campaign to Save Mumia’s Life
It is inconceivable and ludicrous to suggest District Attorney Castille
was not personally involved in the oversight and preparation of the
prosecution’s case against Mumia to the PA Supreme Court and U.S.
Castille could be deemed negligent if he hadn’t done so, since Mumia’s
case was the high-profile murder conviction for killing a police
officer; the FBI and Philadelphia police had targeted Mumia for his
political activity, including opposition to police brutality; and the
FOP vigorously demanded Mumia’s execution. In addition there is the
issue of Ronald Castille’s political and financial indebtedness to the
FOP and his braggadocio about the number of death sentences he secured
while he was District Attorney.
While DA Castille was defending Mumia’s conviction and death sentence in
the Pa. Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court, a campaign calling to
“Save Mumia Abu-Jamal! Abolish the Racist Death Penalty!” initiated by
the Partisan Defense Committee (PDC), was gaining support of trade
unions, civil rights and civil liberties organizations, death penalty
abolitionists, elected officials, leftist and other political
organizations. Mumia’s written commentaries were published in
Philadelphia and across the U.S.
Letters and petitions demanding “Mumia Abu-Jamal Must Not Die” were
delivered to Pa Governor Robert Casey, including from former U.S.
attorney general Ramsey Clark, national publications such as the Nation
and the Black Scholar, and representatives of Amnesty International in
New York, the National Campaign Against the Death Penalty, the NAACP,
the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and many others.
Labor Federations internationally, including the Metro Toronto Labour
Council; the CGT, France’s largest labor federation; the British
National Union of Railwaymen; the Australian Firemen and Deckhands’
Union, national journalists associations; union locals, including AFSCME
(public sector workers), CWA (communications workers), SEIU (service
workers), ILA and ILWU (longshore workers), the Amalgamated Transit
Union, the United Auto Workers, and others supported the campaign.
On November 5, 1988, Mumia’s voice boomed over loudspeakers in
Independence Mall against the Ku Klux Klan, which had planned a “White
Pride” rally at the Liberty Bell. Mumia endorsed the mobilization to
stop the Klan. A publicized demand was made to Governor Casey for Mumia
to be “specially paroled to speak at the rally.” Over 1000 protesters
and the hundreds of Philadelphia and federal police surrounding the
rally site heard Mumia’s recorded message.
In Philadelphia on October 14, 1989, a rally to “Save Mumia Abu-Jamal!
Abolish the Racist Death Penalty!” was held, co-sponsored by the late
David Richardson, President, National Black Caucus of State Legislators
and Pa. State Representative with the PDC. Over two hundred trade
unionists, educators, prison activists and death penalty abolitionists
participated. Wadiya Jamal, Mumia’s wife, spoke of the state’s intent
“to kill Mumia to silence him.” MOVE supporter I Abdul John emphasized
Mumia’s truthful reporting on MOVE and the consequences for him. Rep.
Richardson attacked the prosecution as political and stated that Mumia
is innocent. The event was prominently covered on TV.
A Bastille Day rally was held for Mumia in Philadelphia, July 14, 1990.
The FOP organized a counter-rally. The head of the Philly FOP, Richard
Costello, declared that all Mumia’s supporters were part of a “misfit
terrorist group” who should be put on an “electric couch.” This was big
news in Philadelphia, covered on TV and in the print media.
The video From Death Row, This is Mumia Abu-Jamal was shown in
Philadelphia, as it had in other cities around the world, including New
York, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, London, Paris, Berlin, Tokyo,
Sydney. Mumia sets forth his political history, the police murderous
violence against MOVE and attacks his conviction and death sentence.
Each of these rallies included trade union representatives, spokesmen
for other defense cases, civil liberties and civil rights organizations,
leftist and socialist groups. The first pamphlet by Mumia, Survival is
Still a Crime, was published by Friends and Family of Mumia Abu-Jamal
Press in August 1990.
This campaign for Mumia and the FOP counter-attacks were a political
reality while Castille was prosecuting Mumia’s appeal to the Pa. Supreme
Court and U.S. Supreme Court. This history adds to the lie that DA
Castille had no knowledge of Mumia’s case and no reason for personal
involvement as a prosecutor.
Law is Politics by Other Means
On March 6, 1989, the Pa. Supreme Court upheld Mumia Abu-Jamal’s
conviction and death sentence. It adopted DA Castille’s legal arguments
not to apply recent precedent-setting rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court
on jury selection and prosecutorial misconduct in jury summations to
Just days later Mumia penned “Law is Simply Politics by Other Means.”
(March 19, 1989)
Of all peoples, Africans have the least reason to look to America’s
courts for even a semblance of justice. The record of overt injustice
echoes down the ages, and the heirs of Justice Taney, of Dred Scott
infamy, still sit upon courts, proving his dictum, ‘A black man has no
rights, that a white man is bound to respect,’ has continuing relevance
to today. The ideal is, of course, that all defendants are to be treated
equally in American courts. The reality, of course, is something else
again. …. This [appeal denial] was not a legal decision; it was a
political decision. “Law is simply politics by other means.”
In deciding against Mumia, the Pa. Supreme court decision did not even
maintain a pretense of upholding the established law. Rather, the denial
of legal precedent to Mumia became the new precedent, “Mumia rules,”
applied to other Pennsylvania cases.
Mumia’s historical reference to Dred Scott is that slavery and its
legacy is intrinsic to the American state. It took the Civil War to end
slavery, won by the participation of over 200,000 Black troops. The U.S.
Civil War remains unfinished, as seen in the post-Reconstruction convict
leasing and debt peonage, de jure and de facto segregation, the
oppression of Black people at the bottom of the economy, and mass
incarceration. Black oppression is the bedrock of American capitalism.
Thirty years later, the legal battles for Mumia freedom continue, each
an instance of the relevance of Dred Scott, an object lesson in the
class nature of the capitalist state; that class and race bias are
integral to what is a frame-up system. The injustices of Mumia’s
prosecution, death sentence and life imprisonment are those meted out
every day, disparately suffered by Black people.
At the same time the Pa. Supreme Court decision made crystal clear that
Abu-Jamal’s case is a special case of political persecution, intended to
be a lesson for any who dare to speak out in opposition to racist
oppression, bias and other inequities of American capitalism. This
“special case of political persecution” is shared with other imprisoned
former Black Panther Party members and Leonard Peltier targeted by the
FBI’s Counter-Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) and the MOVE 9. Today,
Black activists are targeted as “Black Identity Extremists.”
Mumia’s Pending Legal Proceedings
Mumia’s legal action was filed on August 7, 2016, but the first court
date was not until April 24, 2017. The DAO opposed Mumia’s action,
arguing for dismissal and that reinstating Mumia’s appeal rights would
be “too much justice.” Instead, Judge Tucker issued six discovery orders
to the DAO, each in response to DAO filings that there are no documents
related to former Philadelphia District Attorney Ronald Castille’s
personal involvement in Mumia Abu-Jamal’s appeals from 1986-1991.
The prosecution position that there is no documentary evidence of
Castille’s involvement is outrageous, but expected; it constitutes a
cover-up of the continuing frame-up of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Nonetheless, the DAO released a March 27, 1990 report on the status of
pending capital cases, including Mumia’s, requested by Castille. Several
times Judge Tucker ordered the DAO to produce DA Castille’s letter
requesting that report. The DAO twice answered that it “cannot locate”
On November 27, 2017 Judge Tucker ordered a court hearing for January
17, 2018 for the DAO to “produce former Deputy District Attorney Gayle
Barthold McLaughlin to present testimony regarding the content of the [Castille]
documents the DA’s office cannot locate.” (McLaughlin is the signatory
on the March 27, 1990 memo and the attorney assigned by DA Castille to
represent the DAO in Mumia’s U.S. Supreme Court proceedings.) Judge
Tucker threatened sanctions against the DAO, but there is no order that
Ronald Castille testify, although he is living in the Philadelphia area.
Prior to the January 17, 2018 court hearing the International Call with
signatories was delivered to DA Krasner as well as a letter from Pam
Africa, ICFFMAJ and Joe Piette of Mobilization 4 Mumia. That letter
requested they and international representatives meet with DA Larry
Krasner to discuss the public release of all police and prosecution
files related to Mumia’s prosecution and obtaining Mumia’s freedom. DA
Krasner was also told he should immediately withdraw the prosecution’s
objection to Mumia’s legal action and restore his rights to appeal,
based on documentary evidence already released by the DAO.
The courtroom on January 17, 2018 was filled to overflow with over 100
Mumia supporters, including an international delegation of Mireille
Fanon-Mendes-France and Jacqui Hortaut (LIBERONS MUMIA!). Outside a
large group of demonstrators demanded “Public Release of All Police and
Prosecution Files on Mumia Abu-Jamal” and “Free Mumia Now.”
DA Krasner’s new team did not acknowledge Judge Tucker’s standing order
to the DAO to produce evidence. Instead, based on a meeting with DA
Krasner, Judge Tucker was asked to give a 60-day continuance for the DAO
to “formulate an office policy.” Mumia’s attorneys Sam Spital of the
NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Judith Ritter agreed. Judge Tucker granted
the 60 days, but required a status report in 30 days, and instructed the
DAO to provide the information ordered.
On February 26, the process was repeated. The DAO said they still
couldn’t locate Castille’s instructions to prepare the status report on
pending 70 capital cases as of March 1990. This time they asked for 90
days to review the boxes of files of those cases. Judge Tucker instead
ordered another status report on March 27 and a hearing on April 30. Per
the request of Mumia’s counsel, the DAO agreed that if there is no new
documentation from the files, there will be a deposition of former
Deputy DA McLaughlin.
Not mentioned in court was another document: a June 15, 1990 letter from
DA Castille to then-governor Robert Casey. This letter urged the
governor to issue death warrants in 16 Philadelphia capital cases where
the appeals process was completed. DA Castille’s letter states: “I urge
you to send a clear and dramatic message to all police killers that the
death penalty actually means something.”
This letter was disclosed by the DAO with the caveat that it does not
apply to Mumia because he is not specifically named. But Mumia’s appeals
were still pending in the U.S. Supreme Court, so a death warrant could
not be requested for him. The “all police killers” was an unmistakable
reference to Mumia Abu-Jamal.
As Mumia’s attorneys argued to Judge Tucker in an October 19, 2017
letter: “The [June 15, 1990] letter makes clear that Mr. Castille made a
policy decision—which would include Mr. Abu-Jamal’s case— to expedite
litigation in capital cases so they would ‘move forward to their
ultimate conclusion.’ Indeed, under the Commonwealth’s own reasoning,
Mr. Castille actively tracked Mr. Abu-Jamal’s case … Those facts, in and
of themselves, show Mr. Castille’s ‘significant, personal involvement…in
a critical decision regarding Mr. Abu-Jamal’s case.”
In other words, the March 27, 1990 status report on capital cases and
Castille’s June 15, 1990 letter to Gov. Casey meet the standard required
by Williams that Justice Castille’s participation as a justice in
Mumia’s appeals deprived Mumia of a fair and impartial tribunal. Mumia’s
appeal denials from 1998-2012 should be vacated and his appeal rights
The International Offensive to Free Mumia is organized to make it clear
to District Attorney Krasner and Judge Leon Tucker there is an
international movement that will not stop until Mumia is free.
The District Attorney serves a specific repressive function in the
criminal injustice system. It cannot be fundamentally changed, any more
than racist, brutal policing can be ended without overturning the
entirety of the capitalist injustice system. The progressive aura of
Larry Krasner, a defense attorney for 30 years, whose campaign promises
included to help end mass incarceration and to “review past convictions
and free the wrongfully convicted” and “never to seek a death sentence”
is already dimmed.
Not surprisingly, Krasner now says, “never say never” on capital
punishment. When Krasner put Ronald Castille on his post-election
advisory board it served to quell some opposition from prosecutors and
the FOP. Castille is a known zealot in favor of executions; he
excoriated defense attorneys who aggressively represented defendants in
capital cases. In addition, the Williams Supreme Court decision was
national news, and Castille publicly disagreed. DA Krasner had to have
known of the 14 pending Williams v. Pennsylvania cases, including
No less political pressure, in the form of protest and publicity, should
be exerted on DA Larry Krasner than was previously directed at district
attorneys Edward Rendell, Ronald Castille, Lynne Abraham or Seth
Williams. Rather, precisely because Bernie Sanders-supported Larry
Krasner is a self-defined “progressive” more demands need to be made on
Judge Tucker has repeatedly ordered the DAO to search its files for any
document evidencing Castille’s personal involvement in Mumia’s case, but
he has not responded to Mumia’s lawyers’ requests to order the DAO to
specifically account for its search and to allow a full evidentiary
There is no basis to assume Judge Tucker will go beyond the
prosecution’s narrowest interpretation of Williams: that evidence of
Castille’s personal involvement in prosecuting Mumia requires a document
in which Castille specifically references Mumia Abu-Jamal, his appeal
and/or his death sentence. And Judge Tucker could accept the DAO’s
statement that there is no such document, despite the released documents
decisively demonstrating Castille’s tracking of Mumia’s case to insure
an execution warrant as soon as possible.
And if that is the case, Judge Tucker has the authority to rule against
Mumia. And if so, this would not be the first time a court ruled against
Mumia, carving out an exception or distinguishing element to deny the
application of a constitutional principle or court precedent.
Judge Tucker has political ambitions of his own. He attempted to get on
the ballot as the Republican candidate for DA after Larry Krasner won
the Democratic primary for district attorney. Reportedly Judge Tucker is
seeking a federal judgeship. How Judge Tucker handles these “Williams’
cases,” especially the result in Mumia’s case, is being closely watched.
Additionally, Judge Tucker has his own legal bias in cases challenging
prosecutorial misconduct as shown in the dismissal of the
post-conviction petition of Major Tillery without even an evidentiary
hearing. Judge Tucker struck down witnesses’ recantation of lying
testimony as “untimely,” blaming Tillery for waiting “too long” to get
the proof that the police and prosecution coerced the witnesses with
threats and promised plea deals.
Judge Tucker’s courtroom will be packed and there will be protest
demonstrations outside the courthouse for the March 27 status hearing
and the April 30, 2018 evidentiary hearing.
For Class-Struggle Defense To Free Mumia
The almost 40 years of legal proceedings against Mumia in the state and
federal courts, aided by the concerted FOP-led propaganda campaign
against him, have shown again and again there is no way to dodge the
central truth that Mumia is directly up against a state machine that is
united in its determination to kill him, to imprison him for life, to
silence him—for who he is, and what he continues to fight for.
There is pressure that can be brought to bear on the courts, which do
not sit in judgment and rule in isolation. But it will take
international mobilization of the masses, centrally labor and its
allies, minorities, immigrants and youth to turn the tide and win
Organizing on the basis of class struggle, non-sectarian defense is our
key strategy to win Mumia’s freedom. While utilizing all possible legal
proceedings and allying with all those who support the cause of Mumia’s
freedom, class struggle defense recognizes the social force of mass
mobilization, and most decisively organized labor. In countries and
cities in the U.S. and around the globe, mass organizations and numbers
of people are needed for agitation, publicity, organizing protest on a
national and international scale as well as rallies, community meetings
and leafleting and petitions to the Pa. Governor and Philadelphia DA,
from any and all organizations who share in the commitment to free Mumia.
At the same time we need to act on the understanding of the nature of
the capitalist state, that the courts are not neutral and that there can
be no illusions in the courts, prosecutors, or capitalist politicians,
whether they are white or black, Democratic, Republican or Green; but
place instead our reliance on the power of the working class and its
This is not a rejection of support from elected officials in the U.S.
including the late Pa. State Rep. David Richardson, congressmen Barbara
Lee, John Conyers and Ron Dellums, or internationally including Labour
MP Jeremy Corbyn. Dozens of elected members of parliaments and elected
bodies around the world have signed on to the International Call,
including Labour MP John McDonnell, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer,
members of the European Parliament, 15 Danish Parliament members.
Elected officials from France, Germany, Britain, South Africa Zimbabwe,
Tanzania, Senegal, Australia, Haiti, Mexico, Canada, the U.S. and other
countries added their names and positions.
Class struggle defense is the recognition that the strategy to free
Mumia lies in the streets and in the actions of the masses.
Historically, in the United States class struggle defense was codified
in the principled work of the International Labor Defense (ILD), formed
by the early Communist Party. That work is still honored today in the
San Francisco longshore union hall in a proudly displayed mural of the
“Red Angel,” ILD Secretary Elaine Black Yoneda, the only woman on the
San Francisco 1934 General Strike Committee.
Labor and trade-union organizations are strategic for class-struggle
defense. That understanding has two components. One is based on the
social power of the working class—social power that can bring
production, transport and communications to a halt. Imagine what it
would mean if the Philadelphia transit workers and sanitation workers,
postal workers and others went out on strike, fighting not only for job
security, higher pay, medical and better work conditions but to demand
While on death row Mumia has stood for labor solidarity with workers in
struggle. He is a proud member of the National Writers Union (UAW). In
1996, when ABC-TV sent a strike breaking “20/20” crew to interview Mumia,
during a recent CWA-NABET strike, Mumia said “No,” that he’d rather die
than cross a picket line. He spoke in support of the Liverpool dockers
struggle (1997), the striking Charleston, South Carolina longshore union
(2000), locked out West Coast longshore workers of the ILWU (2002), and
striking NYC transit workers (2005), and others.
From the beginning of the fight for Mumia, labor organizations
internationally have stood up for him with resolutions and signatures on
petitions. The International Call is signed by over 50 trade unions and
union leaders from around the globe including from Britain, Spain,
Portugal, India, Pakistan, Japan, Australia, Argentina, U.S and Canada.
Crucial to winning Mumia’s freedom is turning this support into concrete
militant labor action, up to and including strike action.
In early January 1999 the Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal
(LAC), Oakland, California, was formed “dedicated to educating workers
about Jamal’s case, and to promoting a class-struggle movement,
including strikes and other job actions wherever possible, to Free Mumia
Oakland Teachers for Mumia, supported by the LAC, initiated the January
1999 Oakland Education Association (OEA) high school teach-ins on “The
Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal and the Death Penalty.” The OEA teach-in which
took place despite a crescendo in the media against a “convicted cop
killer” in the wake of a killing of an Oakland cop.
The 1999 one-day action of the ILWU on the West Coast, initiated by
supporters of the LAC, on the basis of “Free Mumia!” and “An Injury To
One Is An Injury To All” is a concrete example of the labor strike
action needed. Members of the LAC worked within ILWU Local 10 to win a
coast wide vote that the ILWU would shut down all West Coast ports on
April 24,1999 to express their solidarity with Mumia Abu-Jamal. The
eight-hour “stop-work meetings” approved by the delegates halted all
shipping from Bellingham, Washington to San Diego, California.
The adopted demands of the ILWU were “Stop the Execution!” and “Free
Mumia Abu-Jamal!” Although the 1972 ILWU Convention voted to free Angela
Davis, this was the first time the ILWU shut down all West Coast ports
in support of a political prisoner.
This powerful labor action helped mobilize 25,000 people in the Free
Mumia Abu-Jamal demonstration initiated by the Mobilization to Free
Mumia Abu-Jamal and was led by the 300-strong contingent of members ILWU
from San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Port Hueneme, Seattle, and
other port cities along the Western seaboard in the streets of San
Francisco demanding Mumia’s freedom on April 24. Chanting, “An injury to
one is an injury to all! Free Mumia Abu-Jamal!” the West Coast-based
ILWU set an historic precedent for the U.S. labor movement and beyond.
Messages of international dockworkers’ solidarity with the ILWU’s action
in defense of Mumia came from Liverpool, Sweden, Denmark, Cyprus,
Finland, Japan and from the 100,000 member teachers’ union in Rio de
Janeiro, Brazil which struck for two hours the day before calling for
freedom for Mumia.
The latter demand “An injury to one is an injury to all!” speaks to the
other component of why class struggle defense for Mumia is so important.
Labor rights go hand in hand with Black rights. The fight to free Mumia
Abu-Jamal is part of the need for labor to champion every struggle for
Black rights and Black freedom. Karl Marx at the time of the Civil War
said: “Labor cannot emancipate itself in the white skin where in the
black it is branded.” Poisonous white chauvinism is the tool of the
American capitalist class, intended to divide workers, cripple immediate
struggles and the recognition there is a class enemy that needs to be
defeated in united class-struggle.
Teamsters Joint Council 16 representing some 120,000 Teamsters
throughout New York City and across Long Island are training to
challenge federal immigration agents who show up to search their work
sites. Their statement is: union solidarity first, immigration status
second. This labor solidarity shows a potential openness to what is
The fight for Mumia’s freedom—and in defense of democratic rights and of
all the oppressed—is also part of labor’s own fight, a fight that
requires getting rid of the class-collaborationist trade-union
leadership that sells out the workers’ interests. By taking up such
struggles, workers are fighting not just for themselves as workers
pitted against individual employers, but on behalf of the whole working
class, which has the power and interest to overturn the rule of capital.
Labor actions, like those in 1999, are needed today and around the
world, joining the fight to free Mumia with other struggles. This can
become a reality.
The struggle for Mumia’s freedom requires solidarity and unity with
those oppressed and exploited across the world. It is of necessity a
fight back against capitalist repression, oppression and exploitation.
Mumia’s conviction, death sentence, and now life imprisonment without
parole embodies all aspects of the legacy of slavery in the criminal
injustice system—from racist legal lynching to police terror and
shootings on the streets; the denial of legal rights and frame-up
prosecutions in the courts; the repression, dehumanization and
warehousing of men and woman through mass incarceration; and the
inhumane conditions of imprisonment, solitary confinement, life
sentences without parole, medical negligence and malfeasance.
We can win Mumia’s freedom with international mass mobilization, with
labor action and the strategy of class struggle defense. Mumia’s freedom
and the political struggle to win it, is part of the fight for the
liberation of us all.
FREE MUMIA ABU-JAMAL!
BUILD THE INTERNATIONAL MARCH 27 OFFENSIVE!