Workers Vanguard No. 1086
25 March 2016
Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa
Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa, born David Rice, died on March 11 in the maximum-security Nebraska State Penitentiary of respiratory failure. A courageous class-war prisoner who was imprisoned for life for a crime he did not commit, Mondo suffered his last days ill with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, still fighting for his freedom. He spent almost 46 years in prison and remained a political fighter against racial oppression until the end.
Mondo had been an activist since his youth, radicalized by the mass social struggles that swept the country in the 1960s. Mondo became a supporter of the Black Panther Party in response to racist police brutality, in particular the killing of black 14-year-old Vivian Strong, who was shot in the back of the head by a cop in Omaha, Nebraska, in the summer of 1969. He went on to be a leader of the Omaha National Committee to Combat Fascism with his comrade Ed Poindexter. As Mumia Abu-Jamal put it in a March 15 audio tribute, by becoming a Panther, Mondo “walked into the crosshairs of the state.” He became one of the many victims of the FBI’s deadly COINTELPRO operation under which 38 Black Panthers were killed and hundreds more framed up and imprisoned.
Mondo and Poindexter, who became known as the Omaha Two, were falsely convicted of the 1970 killing of a cop in a bomb explosion on the perjured testimony of teenager Duane Peak, who first confessed to acting alone in placing the bomb. Peak was threatened with getting the electric chair and was offered a deal to be sentenced as a juvenile if he helped frame Mondo and Poindexter. Peak’s clearly coerced testimony was shown to be completely bogus. A recording of a 911 call that proved Peak’s testimony was perjured was excluded from evidence in the trial and was long suppressed by the FBI. The political motivation for the frame-up was made clear two decades later by Jack Swanson, an Omaha police detective and key figure in the prosecution. In a 1990 BBC documentary, Swanson boasted: “We feel we got the two main players in Mondo and Poindexter, and I think we did the right thing at the time, because the Black Panther Party...completely disappeared from the city of Omaha...and it’s...been the end of that sort of thing in the city.”
Federal appeals courts ruled that Mondo should be released or retried, but that ruling was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976, which ordered the case returned to the Nebraska state courts. The Nebraska Supreme Court then ruled that his appeal time had lapsed! In 1993, the Nebraska parole board recommended that the Board of Pardons commute Mondo’s life sentence to a term of a set number of years, which would have made him eligible for parole. But the Board of Pardons denied Mondo a hearing.
Mondo was one of the class-war prisoners who receive monthly stipends from the Partisan Defense Committee. The PDC is a class-struggle, non-sectarian legal and social defense organization which champions cases and causes in the interest of the whole of the working people. This purpose is in accordance with the political views of the Spartacist League. The class-war prisoner stipend program is not an act of charity but the duty of those on the outside toward those inside prison walls, irrespective of their particular views or affiliation. Ed Poindexter, who remains imprisoned, is also a PDC stipend recipient.
We remember Mondo—writer, artist and unbroken fighter—who was consigned to America’s prison hell for his opposition to racial oppression. We print below a poem he composed in June 2015 titled When It Gets to This Point.