Women and men in this country are joining worldwide demonstrations to save the life of Mumia Abu-Jamal, award-winning journalist and former Black Panther.
Mumia, as he is known to millions, was wrongly convicted in 1982 of killing a policeman in a trial steeped in racism. He has spent the last 29 years on Pennsylvania’s death row.
Legal Action for Women, the Global Women’s Strike (GWS), Women of Colour in the GWS and Payday Men’s Network, all based at the Crossroads Women’s Centre in Kentish Town, London, have worked with Mumia for years trying to win a new trial. We will be protesting outside the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square at a demonstration organised by PanAfrikanVoice.
According to his attorneys, Mumia is now in the greatest danger since his 1981 arrest. On 9 November, an oral hearing in front of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Philadelphia, will decide whether Mumia will face execution, despite compelling evidence of his innocence, or be given life without parole.
Mumia’s fight for a new trial has won the support of tens of thousands around the world, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Alice Walker, Sister Helen Prejean, Danny Glover, Amnesty International . . . Support in the UK has also come from many quarters. In 2008 over 150 lawyers, including Ian Macdonald QC, Michael Mansfield QC, Helena Kennedy QC, Lord Gifford QC, Gareth Peirce, Clive Stafford Smith, and Geoffrey Bindman wrote highlighting the shocking racism of the case and asking the US courts for redress.
Jailhouse Lawyers, Prisoners Defending Prisoners v the USA, his most recent and groundbreaking publication, due out soon in the UK, illustrates the courageous efforts of fellow prisoners to learn the law to win justice for themselves and others. The UK introduction by its editor Selma James (GWS) who urged Mumia to write the book, presents the parallel universe of UK jailhouse lawyers who, like their US counterparts, are leading a justice movement inside prisons.
Mumia inspires determined and dedicated support because he is a distinguished and remarkable man. He uses his talents and energy to strengthen struggles for justice all over the world. The fate of many others hangs in the balance.
· Known as the “Voice of the Voiceless”, Mumia is at the forefront of a growing movement against the death penalty. If Mumia is executed despite compelling evidence of his innocence, this will be a precedent for many thousands to pay with their lives. This will start with the murder by US authorities of the 3370 people on death row, most of whom are Black and other people of colour.
· Issues in his case, such as racism in jury selection (RJS), are central to thousands of other legal cases. RJS is a crucial aspect of US racism: if you’re Black you can now be president; but unless you’re president, racism can still keep you off a jury; and if you’re accused of a crime, racism can impose a jury likely to convict whatever the evidence. The policeman who was caught on video shooting Oscar Grant in the back was sentenced to just two years in prison.
· His case is a key test of judicial killing. The efforts of police, prosecution and courts to deny him a fair trial and execute him show that this outstanding journalist is being tried for exposing racism, police brutality and corruption, and for his opposition to US government policies and practices. To allow the US to dispose of its critics in this way endangers us all – since the UK government always follows the US example.
For these reasons and more, on 9 November, thousands of people around the world will be supporting Mumia’s right to be heard and for justice.
Global Women’s Strike is an international network of women in 60 countries whose strategy for change is Invest in Caring not Killing.