Workers Vanguard No. 883

5 January 2007


Philly Protest Marks 25th Anniversary of Mumia's Arrest

On December 9, a Partisan Defense Committee contingent joined some 250 defenders of death row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal in a Philadelphia march and rally organized by the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal. The PDC brought from New York City a busload of 45 people, who chanted during the march, “Free Mumia—This is the hour! Unchain labor/black power!” In Paris on the same day, a contingent of 30 organized by the PDC’s fraternal defense organization, the Comité de Défense Sociale, and the Ligue Trotskyste de France joined in a similar demonstration of some 150 people. These events marked the 25th anniversary of Mumia’s imprisonment. Shot and arrested on 9 December 1981, Mumia—a former Black Panther, a MOVE supporter, an eloquent journalist and outspoken opponent of racist oppression—was framed up, falsely convicted and sent to death row on false charges of killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner.

Among the groups present in Philadelphia were the Workers World Party (WWP), International Socialist Organization (ISO), League for the Revolutionary Party and the People’s Organization for Progress. A good portion of the rally was made up of college-age youth looking for a way forward in the fight to free this innocent man. The PDC contingent marched under the slogans: “For Class-Struggle Defense to Free Mumia Now! There Is No Justice in the Capitalist Courts! Abolish the Racist Death Penalty!” The PDC leaflet building the contingent emphasized that with Mumia’s case reaching a critical juncture in the courts, “Millions in the unions, on the streets and campuses must be mobilized now behind Mumia’s fight!”

The PDC supports the use of all possible legal channels on Mumia’s behalf. Indeed, PDC attorney Rachel Wolkenstein served on Mumia’s legal team from 1995 to 1999 and led the investigation that turned up evidence of Mumia’s innocence, including the confession of Arnold Beverly that he shot Officer Faulkner. But the PDC has always insisted that reliance on bourgeois politicians and the capitalist “justice” system cannot win Mumia’s freedom. As the contingent leaflet stated, “The kind of pressure that will have an impact on the courts is the social power of the multiracial labor movement demanding that this innocent man be freed now.”

Only three days before the rally, the U.S. House of Representatives passed, with overwhelming bipartisan support, a resolution that attacked the Parisian suburb of Saint-Denis for naming a street in honor of Mumia and repeated the prosecution’s frame-up lies. A PDC press release (see page 2) denouncing this action stated: “The House of Representatives’ overwhelming vote further drives home the depth of hatred the entire bourgeois state apparatus has for Mumia Abu-Jamal.”

The unfortunately small turnout on December 9 points to the urgent need to revitalize the movement for Mumia’s freedom. We have repeatedly stressed that the millions around the world who rallied to Mumia’s cause more than a decade ago were demobilized by such reformist groups as the WWP, ISO, Socialist Action and Revolutionary Communist Party that have preached reliance on the courts and capitalist politicians, codified in their call for a “new trial” for Mumia.

Regrettably, the Philadelphia rally organizers told the PDC that it could only have a speaker on the condition that no criticisms of other groups would be raised. The PDC could not agree to such self-censorship. Indeed, political debate over competing programs and strategies is vital to reversing the demobilization of Mumia’s supporters at this crucial juncture. Such debate was the defining feature of the October 28 Harlem rally called by the PDC and the New York Labor Black League for Social Defense, which was addressed by Rachel Wolkenstein, Pam Africa and other speakers representing a spectrum of political beliefs who presented their own views on which way forward in the fight to free Mumia (see “Debate at Harlem PDC Rally: For a Class-Struggle Fight to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal!” WV No. 880, 10 November 2006).