PHILADELPHIA (FinalCall.com) – “These people are pushing for Mumia’s death, despite his innocence. We need to organize like we never have before,” declared Pam Africa of the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal in the call for a Dec. 6 rally in support of the death row inmate in the “City of Brotherly Love.”
The 27th anniversary of Mumia’s imprisonment and detention on death-row was marked Dec. 9. The former Black Panther and community journalist was convicted in 1981 in the death of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner.
District Attorney Lynne Abraham is calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate Mr. Abu-Jamal’s death sentence. If her petition is granted it would mean his execution without a new hearing or a new trial, according to his supporters.
The district attorney is appealing the Third Circuit Court’s affirmation of U.S. District Court Judge William Yohn’s 2001 decision which overturned the death penalty. Judge Yohn ruled that if the district attorney wanted to reinstate it, she had to hold a new penalty-phase jury trial. It was unclear whether a new petition had been filed.
“The judiciary system has collaborated with the D.A., the Fraternal Order of Police, and their allies to assure Mumia never leaves prison, and preferably, that he be executed and permanently silenced,” Ms. Africa told The Final Call.
Mr. Abu-Jamal’s attorney, Robert R. Bryan, has said he is appealing to the Supreme Court regarding the Third Circuit Court’s denial on May 27 of a new guilt-phase trial; and the denial of a preliminary hearing that, according to the attorney “could have led to a new guilt-phase trial.” Mr. Bryan has until Dec. 19 to file his petition.
“We have no faith in the courts–they have made their position known–we must make our position known through actions,” said Ramona Africa, sole adult survivor of the May 13, 1985 massacre of 11 members of the MOVE organization in a southwest Philadelphia neighborhood.
The rally began at city hall. “We say stop the frame up! No to execution! No to life in prison! Free Mumia Now!” Ms. Africa shouted to the hundreds gathered at the start of the rally.
After a couple hours of speeches and updates on actions for or against Mr. Abu-Jamal, the gathering marched to 13th and Locust Streets, the scene of the shooting of Officer Faulkner and where Mr. Abu-Jamal was shot on the scene by police. Journalists for Mumia passed out a flyer to accompany their crime scene presentation.
The flyer shows photos taken at the crime scene by freelance press photographer Pedro Polakoff, which are featured in the 2006 book “Race Against Death” by German author Dr. Michael Schiffmann of the University of Heidelberg. According to Journalists for Mumia, there are 26 photos of the crime scene, taken by the photographer 12 minutes after the shootings and 10 minutes before police Mobile Crime Scene investigators arrived.
The journalists told the protestors the photos “raise significant reasonable doubt about the basic scenario of the officer’s death–a scenario that prosecutors constructed to argue for Mumia’s guilt.” They also argue that a key procedural point is that the photos were offered to police and prosecutors in 1981, but never made it to the evidentiary record.
Mr. Polakoff’s photos are featured in the new British documentary film “In Prison My Whole Life,” which was aired on Dec. 8 on the Sundance Channel. “Mumia’s case and the issues surrounding it are highly important and need to be analyzed,” said filmmaker William Francone.
Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International in the United Kingdom, said in a statement: “It’s shocking that the U.S. justice system has repeatedly failed to address the appalling violation of Mumia Abu-Jamal’s fundamental fair trial rights. We hope that the film’s viewers will back our call for a fair retrial.”
“I don’t think anyone is saying that this is an easy fight,” attorney Lynn Stewart told The Final Call. “Mumia’s only hope for an appeal now is in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court,” she added.
“We are here today in Philadelphia to keep before the justice system and the public our call for justice for Mumia,” stated Ashanti Alston of the Jericho Movement, a national coalition of organizations that fight for the rights of U.S. political prisoners.
Supporters say Mr. Abu-Jamal was targeted because of his political activism, abused in police custody and did not receive a fair trial because the jury and judge were racist.
Other demonstrations in support of Mr. Abu-Jamal were held in Germany, with a march to the U.S. embassy in Berlin and marches to American embassy in Mexico City. Solidarity events were held in St. Denis and Paris, France. Events in support of Mr. Abu-Jamal were also held in Portland, San Diego, Baltimore and Detroit.