PHILADELPHIA — Freezing temperatures did not keep hundreds of supporters of Mumia Abu-Jamal from rallying at City Hall Dec. 9 to demand a new trial and freedom for Abu-Jamal. It was exactly 25 years ago that Abu-Jamal was arrested and charged with the fatal shooting of policeman Daniel Faulkner.
Participants at the rally were a diverse crowd, young and old, all races and ethnicities, and included supporters from the nearby states of New York, New Jersey and Delaware and as far away as Vancouver, Canada, and Puerto Rico.
The message from the speakers was to broaden the movement to free Mumia Abu-Jamal and all political prisoners. Pam Africa, a leader in the campaign to “Free Mumia,” emphasized that this is a dangerous time for Abu-Jamal because the district attorney has appealed Judge William Yohn’s 2001 decision to overturn the death penalty for Abu-Jamal.
But speakers also said this is a hopeful time because the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit has agreed to hear arguments that Abu-Jamal’s rights to a fair trial and due process and not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment were abridged.
Ballistics tests did not connect the bullet that killed police officer Faulkner to the alleged gun of Abu-Jamal, Philadelphia attorney Michael Coard explained. Also, during the trial, witnesses lied under oath and when one witness later recanted her testimony, the court refused to hear it, Coard said.
Further, he added, trial Judge Albert Sabo made racist pre-trial remarks against Abu-Jamal, key witnesses for the defense were not called, the crime scene was tampered with, Abu-Jamal’s hand was not tested for gunpowder, and the position of how bullets entered the bodies of Faulkner and Abu-Jamal make it impossible for Abu-Jamal to have been the gunman. The National Lawyers Guild and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund will file separate friend-of-the-court briefs.
Several former death row prisoners who were freed after their innocence was proven spoke in support of Abu-Jamal. Luis Rosa, a Puerto Rican political prisoner for 18 years, received clemency along with 10 others from President Clinton in 1999. Rosa called Abu-Jamal “the voice of the voiceless.” Abu-Jamal, a journalist, has continued to write and speak out on the issues of the day while in prison.
A speaker from France told the audience that Paris made Abu-Jamal an honorary citizen and the French town of Saint-Denis named a street for him.
During the rally, 35 members of police and veterans’ motorcycle clubs revved their engines trying to drown out the speakers. The Fraternal Order of Police is using its political clout to promote the execution of Abu-Jamal and to criticize his supporters. The Pennsylvania Legislature, Philadelphia City Council and the House of Representatives passed resolutions condemning Saint-Denis for naming a street for Abu-Jamal. Recently defeated U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum introduced a similar resolution in the Senate.
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