Far From Over: Mumia Needs us now more than ever Before
Last week we reported the fine Christmas news that a US judge had ruled that Mumia Abu-Jamal was entitled to a resentencing. But the struggle goes on. Daryle Lamont Jenkins reports.
It was the Mumia Abu‑Jamal case that changed me from a conciliatory liberal to a straight‑up leftist. When then‑Gov. Tom Ridge signed his first death warrant in 1995, I simply made a decision right then and there that something had to give. This was while the Republicans were still in their state of euphoria after their victories on Election Day, 1994, and they were going to try to pull on us every stunt they wanted to. I saw Mumia's death warrant as an example of that, and I did not hear any liberal Democrat saying jack about it.
But if you looked further leftward, you saw folks talking about it, trying to get as many people aware of the case as they could. The facts were squarely on their side. I also noticed that with the exception of a very select few on the Right, including the first website against him coming from a White Power activist who has since given those beliefs up, many of your usual suspects from that side of life were keeping their mouths shut. That's how it was for five years. We called out the Philadelphia criminal justice system and its ruling class, and no one argued with us. We knew they were out there though. They just simply did not have an argument.
When Rage Against the Machine, the Beastie Boys, Bad Religion and Black Moon held their benefit concert for Mumia in New Jersey's Meadowlands Arena in January, 1999, that was when the lid blew off the case. All it took was for the concert to be promoted on New York's K‑ROCK and shock‑jock Howard Stern, who knew nothing of the case beforehand, had to chime in calling for him to be executed, and how wrong it was for his station to be advertising for the concert. For the first time, the closest thing to real opposition came out. Maureen Faulkner went on her campaign calling for justice for her slain husband, Officer Daniel Faulkner. The Philly establishment, even those that were considered to be liberal, were demanding that Mumia's fate be sealed. Even Sam Donaldson, who is against the death penalty, made an exception in Mumia's case! Aside from the fact that it took them five years to speak up, that last one was what clinched it for me. Something else was going on.
Truth is, the anti‑Mumia folks had nothing to back them up. Every time they made a point it was easily refuted. Those that are concerned for Mumia and his case knew the case inside and out, and even the most inarticulate supporter would be able to explain in detail why the case was flawed. Yet, they were going ahead with the execution. People, this would not have been about justice. It was all politics, and they knew it.
So when the case moved out of the hands of the Pennsylvania justice system and into the federal courts, I knew there will be a change. Sure enough, twenty years, one week , and two days after that night where Faulkner lost his life and Mumia lost his freedom, a federal judge threw out Mumia's death sentence. U.S. District Judge William Yohn ordered Pennsylvania officials to conduct a new sentencing hearing within 180 days, or the courts are to sentence him to life imprisonment.
This news is only a few hours old and it is now going across the internet like wildfire. There are cheers and accolades around among Mumia's supporters, while all those right‑wingers who tried so hard to kill him are reeling. It is a good day, and after all that has been happening for the past few months, we needed this.
But it is not over. Anyone who studies politics extensively knows that this was the direction this case was going to go. They could not kill Mumia because the political fallout would be something Pennsylvania will take a long time to recover from. This being a death penalty case, the urgency of it, as opposed to the case of Leonard Peltier who has a life sentence – but was just as unfairly railroaded, is what drew a lot of people, including myself to the case. I will still be around, but the urgency has been lifted. There is no fear of him losing his life anymore, and that means some folks may not make it a priority as they had in the past. That is what the anti‑Mumia crowd is hoping for. 180 days later, that life sentence may be imposed. Why would prosecutors even try to get a new hearing? If they did, it could possibly mean his release. The death penalty is not an option. Life imprisonment is the best way they can get something out of it.
That is why for the next 180 days, the pressure still must be kept on officials to hold that hearing. Mumia has a real chance to see the light of day, and the only way we can ensure that is if we put the fear of God in his detractors. His lawyers will no doubt force the hearing. They are going to need help and all the agitation they can get from us, who do not want to see Mumia spend the rest of his life in jail. Last week, Philly police officers attacked a rally to support Mumia, something they never done before. After this ruling, it looks like they saw the handwriting on the wall.
And to that end I say this: What happened was a victory we can directly claim. This would not have happened were it not for the massive campaign across the globe from people like you and me. Most importantly, this is a major defeat for the rightists, the Philadelphia political system and their police department who for far too long has been terrorizing the citizens of Philadelphia. They are going to mobilize heavy now, as evidenced by what happened last week. Make no mistake about it, though. Mumia's case was a signal to them that we had enough, but his win lets them know that we got them by the balls, and we will yank.
We are only getting started. It's on.
PRIVATE This article first appeared at www.onepeoplesproject.com tc \l 1 "This article first appeared at www.onepeoplesproject.com"