Mobilize Labor/Black Power to Free Mumia Now!

Jamal Death Sentence Reversed

The following statement issued on December 18 by the Partisan Defense Committee was published in Workers Vanguard No. 771, 28 December 2001. WV is the biweekly newspaper of the Spartacist League/U.S., American section of the ICL.

Federal district court judge William Yohn today reversed the death sentence that has been hanging over the head of Mumia Abu-Jamal since his 1982 frame-up conviction for the killing of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. Although Yohn rejected the mountains of evidence demonstrating Jamal’s innocence—including the sworn confession of Arnold Beverly testifying that he had been hired to kill Faulkner—this ruling represents the first crack in the state’s 20-year legal vendetta against Jamal. And the forces that have worked overtime to ensure Jamal’s execution are literally screaming bloody murder. Maureen Faulkner, who has headed this campaign on behalf of the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police (F.O.P.), condemned Yohn as a “sick and twisted person.” Democratic Party District Attorney Lynne Abraham, who has done more than her share to see that more black people are sentenced to death in Philadelphia than any other city in the U.S., immediately convened a press conference to announce that the prosecution will be appealing Yohn’s ruling.

The F.O.P. and the Philly D.A.’s office fear that the explosive new evidence of Jamal’s innocence, which the capitalist state and the press have worked hard to bury, could finally be heard in a court of law. Prosecutor Hugh Burns made that clear when he declaimed today, “If there was a new sentencing hearing, it would probably entail the empaneling of a jury...and whatever evidence the defendant wanted to review again would be presented to the jury.” Yohn has also worked assiduously to ensure that the overwhelming evidence of Jamal’s innocence is buried. His decision affirms the original frame-up murder conviction, which was secured on the basis of “eyewitness” testimony coerced by the police through the promise of favors and outright terror, a manufactured “confession” and completely concocted ballistics “evidence.” Yohn’s ruling only allows for a new sentencing hearing within 180 days which would at best consign Jamal to life behind bars.

As Mumia himself said of life imprisonment in one of his writings from death row: “‘Life’ is thus but a grim metaphor for death, for only death releases one from its shackles. ‘Life,’ it might be said, is merely slow death.” Mumia Abu-Jamal is an innocent man! An award-winning journalist, former Black Panther and MOVE supporter, Mumia’s only “crime” is that he is an outspoken champion of the oppressed and exploited. And he has continued to speak out, unbowed and unbroken, from his death row cell. Don’t let them bury Mumia alive! Workers, minorities and all opponents of racist capitalist repression must now redouble their efforts to mobilize mass protest centered on the social power of the labor movement to demand Jamal’s immediate freedom.

From the time the Partisan Defense Committee took up Jamal’s case 15 years ago, we have insisted that the fight to save this innocent man cannot rely on the capitalist courts but must be based on social struggle. What has kept him out of the clutches of the executioner is mass protest and publicity, in this country and internationally, especially by trade unions representing millions of workers. Now more than ever the PDC says: No confidence in the capitalist courts, all confidence in the power of the working people and oppressed!

Jamal’s case throws into stark relief the whole nature of racist American capitalism. His prosecution and conviction were an extension of the COINTELPRO terror campaign by the FBI in which dozens of Black Panthers were assassinated and hundreds more sent to prison. Among them was Geronimo ji Jaga (Pratt), who was finally released in 1997 after 27 years in prison hell for a crime the state knew he did not commit. Jamal’s case is a demonstration of the machinery of repression wielded by the capitalist rulers against any perceived threat to a system based on the exploitation of the many by the few, which in America is rooted in the forcible subjugation of the black population at the bottom of society.

As ever more death row and other prisoners are exonerated of false convictions through DNA evidence, popular support for the death penalty has waned and America’s imperialist rulers have faced growing diplomatic embarrassment around the world. And Jamal’s case shows what the racist, barbaric death penalty in the U.S. is all about. On December 2, the Paris city council voted to make Mumia an honorary citizen of the city, an indication of the breadth of support for his cause around the world. This new court ruling comes even as the right-wing Bush administration, invoking the need for “war measures” as it bombs the people of Afghanistan, is gearing up a new COINTELPRO-style campaign of terror and provocation. Targeting people of Near Eastern descent in the first instance, the government’s “war on terror” is aimed at all immigrants, minorities, labor, leftists and all perceived opponents of the government.

What is needed is a massive struggle centered on the social power of the multiracial working class to fight for Jamal’s freedom! Based on the only significant integration in racist America—the workplace and the factory floor—the trade unions have the social power and the potential to become battalions in the struggle against capitalist exploitation and racial oppression, to shake the foundations of this decaying capitalist system and ultimately topple it. If undertaken with a mobilization of the union movement at the forefront, the fight to free Mumia and to abolish the racist death penalty would be a first, giant step in that direction and would strike a significant blow against the draconian new repressive measures being implemented by the Bush administration with bipartisan support. To that end, labor must break the chains with which the trade-union misleaders have shackled the unions to the political parties—centrally the Democrats—and the state agencies of the enemy class. No illusions in the capitalist courts! Free Mumia now! Abolish the racist death penalty!

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