by Bob Mandel and Bob Wells
We salute your courageous action protesting police brutality throughout the U.S. We are heartened to see others, including entire teams and athletes in different sports, joining you.
Besides shooting Black people to death in the streets every day and every night, American law enforcement is seeking the slow death in prison of dozens of heroes of the resistance of the ‘60s and ‘70s.
We urge you to speak out on the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. A former Black Panther, through his broadcasts and writings he has fearlessly opposed police violence for four decades, giving voice to the voiceless millions incarcerated in U.S. prisons.
The price of Mumia’s courage has been 35 years in prison, 32 on Death Row. He was framed by the Philadelphia police for a murder he did not commit, falsely accused of killing a cop. They wanted him dead for reporting the violent police assaults on the communal African-American MOVE organization. These assaults culminated in a police helicopter aerial bombing which burned down an entire Philadelphia city block.
We urge you to speak out on the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Nationally, because he refuses to be silenced even behind bars, the Fraternal Order of Police has relentlessly sought his death. His life is in immediate and grave danger. While his official death sentence was finally overturned because of constitutional violations, the Pennsylvania prison authorities refuse to give him life-saving drugs for Hepatitis C. The prison system is seeking to “legally” lynch him through medical neglect.
Although a federal judge ruled last month that the Pennsylvania protocol for Hep C is unconstitutional, a protocol which endangers over 6,000 prisoners, bowing to police pressure the judge refused to issue an injunction ordering the prison authorities to give Mumia the medicines now. Because of the cost of treatment – set outrageously high by Big Pharma – the protocol denies Hepatitis-C infected prisoners the key medicines until they are on the brink of irreversible liver damage and death. Nationally, there are about 700,000 Hep C sufferers in U.S prisons.
Colin Kaepernick, who likes to indicate his political positions with his t-shirts, could wear a “Free Mumia” shirt like the one shown here. It is worn by the incomparable political prisoner supporter Yuri Kochiyama. Yuri, a close friend of Malcolm X, who was in the hall when he was assassinated, rushed to the stage and cradled his head in her lap as he died. She later moved to Oakland, where she made a full time job of supporting political prisoners, mentoring young people and encouraging everyone who dares oppose criminalization to silence dissent. As a youngster, she had been interred in a concentration camp during World War II.
Mumia is innocent and should be immediately set free. Recently the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Williams v. Pennsylvania ruled that a defendant’s constitutional right to a fair hearing before an impartial judge is violated when his appeals are heard by a judge who was previously a prosecutor involved in making important decisions in his case. The same Pennsylvania Supreme Court judge whose conduct was the subject of Williams v. Pennsylvania, Ronald Castille, heard Mumia’s appeals of denial of post-conviction relief and was assistant district attorney at the time of Mumia’s trial and head district attorney at the time of his direct appeal.
This ruling should mean that Mumia is set free. But because of his unceasing exposure of police violence and his overall critique of U.S. policy at home and abroad, time after time for the past 30 years the Pennsylvania and federal courts have made decisions that rulings which apply to literally everyone else do not apply to Mumia.
Mumia is innocent and should be immediately set free.
To see that Mumia finally walks out of the prison doors, it will take public statements by you and people like you, backed by mass actions, including by unions and others who have long supported Mumia and by the millions of young people who have taken up the cause that Black Lives Matter.
Your action has helped bring the debate on police racism, brutality and murder to a higher level. By speaking out on Mumia’s case, you can spark a movement to see that justice is finally done.
Bob Mandel and Bob Wells, now retired, were among the members of Oakland Teachers for Mumia who organized the controversial 1999 Oakland Schools Teach-in on Mumia Abu-Jamal and the death penalty. Over the summer of 2015, they along with Jack Gerson and Craig Gordon pressured the Oakland school district into reinstating a social justice website called “Urban Dreams” that the school administration had taken down because of intimidation by the Fraternal Order of Police and Fox News. Mandel and Wells are also members of the Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal. Contact Bob Wells, who was a news reporter in the ‘60s, at firstname.lastname@example.org.