Workers Vanguard No. 916
6 June 2008
Racist Philly Cop Beating Caught on Tape, Again
Free Mumia Abu-Jamal! Free the MOVE Prisoners!
Just over a week after the three New York City cops who killed 23-year-old Sean Bell in a hail of 50 bullets on his wedding day were found “not guilty” on all counts, the spotlight on racist cop terror moved to the Philadelphia thugs in blue. On May 5, a Fox News helicopter videotaped the horrendous spectacle of up to 19 cops dragging three unarmed young black men out of a car, punching, kicking and stomping on them, pressing a foot to one man’s neck. In a bloody frenzy, the cops dashed from one victim to another, bludgeoning them as they lay restrained on the ground, circled by a riled-up police dog.
Lisa Hall, the mother of 23-year-old Brian Hall, watched the video of cops kicking her son and exclaimed that they were “beating them like they are a piece of meat.” Lemoia Dyches, the mother of 24-year-old Dwayne Dyches, another victim, said, “You see 14 white police officers beating three black males. In my area where I live at, I can see it constantly.” As death row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal put it in his column, “Philadelphia: City of Brotherly Thugs” (reprinted in WV No. 915, 23 May): “The scene is as common as sunlight: cops beating Black men in the streets.”
Recently elected black Democratic Party mayor Michael Nutter, who came to office calling for a more aggressive stop-and-frisk policy and promising hundreds more cops on the streets, said that he was “tremendously disappointed” and that there would be an investigation of the police attack, adding, “we will move on.” Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, appointed by Nutter, rationalized the attack as a result of police “stress.” Two weeks later, Ramsey announced that four of the cops were fired, three were suspended for five to 15 days, a sergeant was demoted and others will be sent to “retraining.” Black Democratic Party hustler Al Sharpton, who has played a key role in dissipating anger against the acquittal of Sean Bell’s killers into empty “civil disobedience” gestures, applauded Nutter and Ramsey for showing “some real muscle and seriousness about addressing police brutality.” But as one AP reporter noted, “if history proves the rule, the officers may never lose a day’s pay” (delawareonline.com, 22 May). The courts and prosecutors have allowed the torturers of Rodney King and the killers of Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo and members of the MOVE organization, among countless others, to roam the streets with impunity. Terrorizing the besieged black and Latino populations is precisely the job the cops are paid to do under racist capitalism.
The sickening brutality of the Philly Police Department that splashed across the TV screen was no aberration but standard operating procedure. This is the Philadelphia PD that has run roughshod over the black population for decades—from the mass roundup without warrants of nearly 600 black people in November 1940, to the reign of terror under Frank Rizzo as police commissioner and then mayor in the 1960s and 1970s, to the bombing of the MOVE commune on 13 May 1985, on to the present. This is the Philly PD that 26 years ago tried to execute in the streets its most prominent and outspoken critic, Mumia Abu-Jamal, and has fought for his legal lynching ever since. A Black Panther Party spokesman at the age of 15, subsequently a supporter of the MOVE organization and a renowned journalist, Mumia was framed up for the 1981 killing of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner and sentenced to death explicitly for his political views.
In his commentary on the Philly beating, Mumia recalled “the taped beating of Delbert Africa, a MOVE member who was beaten during the August 8th, 1978 police raid on MOVE’s home. These cops, too, were easily acquitted by explicit judicial decree.” After years of a police offensive against the largely black, radical back-to-nature MOVE group, an army of nearly 600 cops surrounded the MOVE home in Philadelphia’s Powelton Village neighborhood. The cops unleashed a fusillade on the house so intense that one of their own officers, James Ramp, was killed in their cross fire. When the surviving adults emerged from their home, television news cameras captured the police dragging, kicking, punching and stomping Delbert Africa nearly to death.
That atrocity came atop a wave of coldblooded street executions by police and growing exposure of systematic frame-up methods employed particularly by the Homicide Division. Seeking to quell growing outrage and shore up the cops’ authority, in 1979 the Feds filed a civil rights suit against the city and police department citing “widespread, arbitrary, and unreasonable physical abuse.” The suit was rapidly dismissed for “lack of jurisdiction.” The city’s own files revealed thousands of people who had been shot and beaten by the police.
Nine MOVE members, including Delbert Africa, were sentenced to 30 to 100 years on false charges of killing Ramp. In 1985, they watched on TV from prison as the Philly cops and black Democratic mayor Wilson Goode, in collusion with the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, dropped a bomb on MOVE’s Osage Avenue home, killing eleven people, including five children, and leaving a black neighborhood in ashes. In 1998, Merle Africa died in prison. This year, for the first time, the eight survivors have become eligible for parole hearings, and already five of them have been turned down. The MOVE prisoners must be freed now!
In December 1981, only months after the MOVE 9 conviction, Mumia was arrested on false charges of killing Officer Faulkner. He was sentenced to death the next year after a frame-up trial of faked evidence, coerced witnesses and racist jury rigging. That trial was overseen by racist “hanging judge” Albert Sabo, who was overheard at the time by a court reporter promising, “I’m going to help them fry the n----r.”
To secure Mumia’s conviction, cops and prosecutors forced witnesses into providing perjured testimony and terrorized others into not testifying at all. The latter included William Singletary, who had told police immediately after the killing that he saw someone other than Mumia shoot Faulkner. Fearing for his life, Singletary left town during the trial.
Mumia is an innocent man, and there is a mountain of evidence that proves this. This includes a 1999 affidavit by one Arnold Beverly who confessed that he, not Mumia, killed Faulkner. Beverly declared: “I was hired, along with another guy, and paid to shoot and kill Faulkner. I had heard that Faulkner was a problem for the mob and corrupt policemen because he interfered with the graft and payoffs made to allow illegal activity including prostitution, gambling, drugs without prosecution in the center city area.”
Beverly’s confession lays bare the extent and consciousness of the police and prosecutorial misconduct in prosecuting and convicting Mumia and sentencing him to death for a crime he did not commit. Beverly’s account of being hired to kill Officer Faulkner is consistent with the fact that there were at least three ongoing FBI investigations of police corruption in the Center City area where Faulkner worked at the time of his murder, and that at least one other informant in those investigations was murdered.
Mumia is the victim not of one rogue cop, “overzealous” prosecutor or racist judge. All the elements of the capitalist “justice” system colluded in framing him up. And these are the same people running Philadelphia today. Pennsylvania’s governor, Ed Rendell, was the D.A. who prosecuted the MOVE 9 and Mumia. He is one of a number of leading figures in the Pennsylvania state government for whom the vendetta against MOVE and Mumia has played a key role in building their careers.
It has been over two months since the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Mumia’s frame-up conviction, condemning him to either execution or the living death of life in prison. Following the March 27 decision, the Partisan Defense Committee—a class-struggle, non-sectarian legal and social defense organization associated with the Spartacist League—initiated a series of international united-front protests as part of the struggle to rekindle the mass protest that is necessary to win Mumia’s freedom. The fight for Mumia’s freedom must be based on the understanding that the courts and cops, key components of the capitalist state, are an apparatus for the repression of the working class and oppressed minorities on behalf of the bloody capitalist rulers. Especially for a fighter for black freedom like Mumia, there is no justice in the capitalist courts. Free Mumia now!
The fight for Mumia’s freedom cuts to the core of racist American capitalism and its state. We fight for Mumia’s freedom as part of the broader struggle for black liberation based on the program of revolutionary integrationism. Combatting every manifestation of racist oppression, we underline that full equality for the black masses requires that the working class rip the economy out of the hands of the bourgeoisie and reorganize it on a socialist basis. Only then will it be possible to eliminate the material roots of black oppression through the full integration of black people into an egalitarian socialist society based on a collectivized economy with quality jobs, housing, health care and education for all. For black liberation through socialist revolution!
The social power of labor must be mobilized in struggle against rampant police brutality and racist attacks. Such struggle must be infused with the understanding that there will be no end to cop terror short of the destruction of the system of capitalist exploitation and racist oppression that the police “serve and protect.” We seek to forge a Leninist vanguard party that will lead all of the exploited and oppressed in the fight for socialist revolution—the only road to sweeping away the capitalist state and its frame-up machinery.