Civil rights and community activists met in San Diego in December to watch “Justice on Trial,” a film about the tragic story of the injustices committed against death-row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Space@Bar Coffeehouse graciously hosted the event organized by the San Diego International Action Center. Gloria Verdieu from the IAC hosted a discussion after the film to strategize on how to respond to the Nov. 9 Third Circuit of Appeals hearing in Philadelphia that could reinstate the death penalty on Mumia. Mumia has spent more than 28 years on Pennsylvania’s death row.
At this hearing, activists streamed in from all over the world to support Mumia and now await news of whether Mumia will face a date for the death warrant or if he will serve a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Neither alternative is acceptable.
Detractors, primarily the corrupt and biased Fraternal Order of Police in Pennsylvania, have requested that Mumia’s death sentence be reinstated.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the Black Panther Party was targeted and terrorized by police day in and day out. Mumia joined the BPP in Philadelphia as a teenager.
During his adult years, Mumia became an award-winning journalist; using his talents to document injustice, especially police brutality against the MOVE organization. While racism protects some writers from domestic terrorism at the hands of law enforcement and the courts, nothing stood between the Philadelphia police and finding a way to lock up — and attempt to silence — Mumia.
On Dec. 9, 1981, a police officer was killed in Philadelphia. Mumia was arrested for his murder. Evidence during the trial was weak, at best. People were coerced to testify against him, and have since recanted. A court stenographer overheard the trial judge make racist remarks about Mumia, using the “N” word in the process! Independent experts have stated that the 1982 trial that convicted Mumia of first degree murder was unfair.
The IAC-led discussion culminated in the decision that activists will contact U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to demand a civil rights investigation on behalf of Mumia. Some volunteered to write letters, while others want to call Holder’s office. While Holder cannot intervene legally in Mumia’s case, he has the authority to review this miscarriage of justice and publicly recommend a new trial for Mumia.
During the discussion Mumia’s case was compared to that of Lena Baker — a Black woman put to death by electrocution in 1945 in Georgia after a one-day, all-white, male jury convicted her for defending herself against the sexual and physical abuse of her white employer whom she fatally shot. She was exonerated 60 years later.
Community activist Adafrika said it best during the discussion: “Let’s not let Mumia’s family suffer the way Lena Baker’s has, all these years.”
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