Intervju med Mumia Abu Jamal

Mathias Bismo (
Sat, 13 Mar 1999 13:32:56 +0100

Denne saken er hentet fra

Black Radical Congress WWW Site:


February 1999

The Dispatcher
[newspaper of the International Longshore Workers Union (ILWU)]

Interview With Mumia Abu-Jamal


Black political prisoner and radio journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal has been
Pennsylvania's death row since 1982, falsely convicted of the killing of
Philadelphia policeman. Racism and frame-ups are nothing new to the
of Brotherly Shove", as comedian Dick Gregory calls it. During the Civil
War, black abolitionist Frederick Douglass wrote: "There is not perhaps
anywhere to be found a city in which prejudice against color is more
rampant than in Philadelphia." Not far from the Mason-Dixon Line,
Philadelphia has remained a tightly segregated city with a police force
dedicated to maintaining the racist status quo.

In 1978 600 police attacked the black MOVE communal house in
Like the Rodney King videotape of police brutality, television cameras
captured police stomping one of its wounded occupants, Delbert Africa,
had surrendered. One year later, the federal government charging
"widespread, arbitrary, and unreasonable physical abuse," filed a civil
rights suit against the city and its police department.

In 1985 MOVE's house was firebombed in a coordinated attack by police,
F.B.I. and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in which eleven
people were killed, including five children, incinerating most of the
black neighborhood.

Once again in 1995 the Philadelphia police department scandal was
front-page news across the country: framing-up of innocent people,
corruption, police brutality. In all, 300 convictions were thrown out
many innocent victims set free. This expose was followed by the
Philadelphia District Attorney revealing that juries had routinely been
rigged to exclude blacks.

In Mumia's frame-up the prosecution's chief witness Cynthia White, a
prostitute, told a friend and prostitute, Pamela Jenkins, a key
informant in the 1995 investigation of police corruption, that "she was
fear for her life from the police". After police intimidation, White
testified that Mumia, who'd been shot and lay seriously wounded, had
the cop. Five eyewitnesses from five vantage points told police they saw
the shooter flee the scene. None of this evidence was allowed in court.
Police claim they never did the standard nitrate test for Mumia's hands
prove he'd fired a gun and scientific ballistics tests that could prove
Mumia's innocence were not permitted to be introduced. Such travesties
justice go on and on, but the police got "their" man, Mumia Abu-Jamal,
they had been targeting since he was a 15 year-old member of the Black
Panther Party.

The ILWU, through resolutions from its organizational divisions and
letters from its International Presidents, has been supporting the case
Mumia Abu-Jamal for ten years. Mumia, in turn, from death row, was one
the prominent endorsers of ILWU's victorious Neptune Jade case.

Time and appeals are running out for Mumia. On Oct. 29, 1998 the
Pennsylvania state Supreme Court upheld his conviction and Governor Tom
Ridge has vowed to sign his death warrant.

Prison authorities made a face-to-face talk with Mumia nearly
So at his suggestion The Dispatcher submitted him a list of questions to
which he made written responses.

A View from Death Row

A written interview with political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal
by ILWU Local 10 longshore worker Jack Heyman

January 15, 1999

The Dispatcher: West Coast maritime employers attempted by the use of
and courts to intimidate labor activist picketers and the ILWU from
demonstrating international labor solidarity in the Neptune Jade case.
the end we won by organizing a broad united front of individuals
with the erosion of democratic rights and the labor movement, mobilizing
maritime and other workers for action here and around the world. Do you
think similar tactics could be applied in your defense?

Mumia: I think a "broad united front" may prove effective in labor
and in human rights movements on broader social issues. Can it be
in my case? Yes. For the efforts of the State are designed to isolate
to construct barriers between us. All that we can do to demolish those
walls is to the good.

The Dispatcher: During the recent ABC-TV lock-out of NABET/CWA workers,
you refused to be interviewed by strikebreakers on the news program
"20/20" despite the fact that publicity may have helped your case. Why?

Mumia: I had to ask myself, "Would I cross a picket line if I were
in quasi-freedom, and walking to the studio?" The answer was an
irrevocable, 'no.' How could I do less, even under these circumstances?
felt an intense affinity for the people of NABET, and felt it was an
important opportunity to express and dramatize my solidarity with them.
any event, it did give the NABET folks a "shout out" that they perhaps
otherwise would not have received. So it wasn't a total loss. Moreover,
had received, several days prior to the airing, in the process of civil
discovery, a xerox of the first letter written to the DOC [Dept. of
Corrections], from the producers of 20/20. The bias of that letter was
palpable as they expressed an overt intention to do a show that would
present the position of the FOP (Fraternal Order of Police). How could
such a program have helped my case? It could, however, aid in some small
way those folks battling for their well-deserved health benefits on the
picket line.

The Dispatcher: You joined the Black Panther Party (BPP) in the 1960s at
the age of fifteen and held the position of Minister of Information.
ten years later you were an activist in and elected president of the
Association of Black Journalists in Philadelphia. As a working
you exposed racism and police brutality. Do you think the police
you because of your work as a journalist?

Mumia: I think that there is no question that I was known and hated [by
the police] for my work as much for my history. Moreover, the District
Attorney fought frantically -- and the clever judge denied him every
saying it threatened a reversal -- to introduce, at every phase of the
trial, my BPP background to the predominantly white jury.

The Dispatcher: Did the release from prison of former Black Panther
Geronimo ji Jaga [Pratt] and the exposure of the F.B.I.'s Counter-
Intelligence Program of frame-ups and killing of black activists give
some hope for justice?

Mumia: I have to admit that it did, as for all in the movement. It truly
was a glorious breath of fresh air. But if that be so, what about the
vicious, continued state campaign to encage him again? Geronimo ji Jaga
was admittedly imprisoned, in the words of state parole officials,
he "is still a revolutionary." If that's the case, is it logical to
suggest that he was the only one? The MOVE 9 were encaged over twenty
years ago because they were and remain revolutionaries. There are scores
of ex-Panthers and others who remain so encaged, all across America.

The Dispatcher: Judge Sabo who presided over your trial was known as the
"King of Death Row" for having handed down more death sentences than any
other judge in this country. Since he has been forced into retirement
this increased your chance for a fair trial?

Mumia: Unfortunately, no. The state system allowed him to do his damage,
and then retired him. As a life member of the FOP, he was well placed to
do their bidding. The courts have found that my membership in the BPP
justified my death, but when Sabo was challenged by defense counsel
his membership in the FOP, his defense was that he was only a member
a few years." Well, I was only a member of the BPP for "a few years,"
it was sufficient to form an unofficial aggravating circumstance to
my death.

The Dispatcher: In 1995 the scandal of the Philadelphia police
was front page news across the U.S. -- framing up of innocent people,
corruption, police brutality. 300 convictions were thrown out and many
innocent victims set free. This was followed by an expose of routine
rigging by the Philadelphia District Attorney's office to exclude
Tell us a few of the more egregious violations during your arrest,
imprisonment and trial?

Mumia: The police department has said, and the DA's office has seconded,
that neither I nor my brother were beaten. That flies in the face of
logic. They then constructed, out of whole cloth, a false "confession,"
claiming that they forgot it for a few months. They rejected almost
potential black juror that came into the door. They assembled a jury
composed of friends and family of cops, tried before a member of the FOP
in black robes, and arranged an appeal before an appeals court where one
"justice" -- the same one who served as DA on my direct appeal --
at least five other judges had accepted FOP "support" in their election

The Dispatcher: In San Francisco ILWU Local 10's constitution cops are
barred from becoming members of our union because of the murderous role
they played in the 1934 West Coast Maritime Strike, killing six workers.
When a benefit was held for your defense in July 1995, at the
Hospital and Health Care Workers Union Local 1199C, 300 armed cops
besieged the union hall screaming for your execution. Do you think that
police brutality, particularly against blacks, is part of a larger
of repression?

Mumia: Police brutality against African-Americans has an historic
component that can be traced to the 1800's, after the civil war.
"Paddy-rollers" was the term fugitive slaves used to describe the
slave-catchers who dogged their trails. A century later, police wagons
were called "paddy wagons": an allusion to their common histories, and
roles. Police are agents of the ruling class, and, as such, soldiers who
serve their interests. They exist, not to protect the people, but to
protect capital. What role do they perform when workers strike? What
do they perform when the people demonstrate against any social
What function did they perform when young brothers like Fred Hampton and
Mark Clark were building the Chicago chapter of the Black Panther Party?
What role were they playing when they bombed men, women and children in
the MOVE House in South-West Philadelphia on May 13, 1985? Their job is
wage war against the people, and to instill terror against anyone --
anyone -- who resists against the system.

The Dispatcher: Twenty-five percent of young black men are under the
control of the so-called criminal justice system, either incarcerated,
paroled or on trial. Is this phenomenon related to the polarization of
capitalist society with the rich getting richer, the poor poorer,
increased joblessness, homelessness, the "War on Drugs" -- in short a
social disenfranchisement of part of the working class?

Mumia: When I read Frances Fox-Piven's "The New Class War: Reagan's
Attack on the Welfare State and Its Consequences," I learned some
important things about how the fate of the poor, the desperately poor
folks barely surviving on welfare, were closely linked with the fate of
the workers. She explains: "...income- maintenance benefits [welfare]
support wage levels despite high unemployment. The reason is simple. If
the desperation of the unemployed is moderated by the availability of
various benefits, they will be less eager to take any job on any terms.
other words, an industrial reserve army of labor with unemployment
benefits and food stamps is a less effective instrument with which to
deflate wage and workplace demands." The state understands that if it
divide labor against the poor, it can cut the legs off both groups. It
actually an attack on the working class, hidden under an attack on the
poor. And many workers can't really recognize that their interests are
allied to theirs. The War on Drugs is also a justification for what
is a War on the Poor. Most drugs are used by people of means -- and for
them there is the Betty Ford Clinic. For the poor, there is a prison
A grim, deadly end that punishes the poor for their flight from the
of their daily existence at the bottom of the social order.

The Dispatcher: Why is the United States the only industrialized power
remaining that uses capital punishment and is it implemented in a racist

Mumia: The U.S. is distinct from many of their contemporaries because of
their distinct history. When one examines the history of say, Canada,
views a prison system that is drastically different from that of the
Why is that? Their history differs in the crucial area of slavery. And
American criminal (in)justice system is lineally descended from that
horrific history. It taints the system, just like it taints

The Dispatcher: Where does your struggle go from here?

Mumia: The struggle goes on, as it must for freedom, for liberation, for
peoples' justice that only they can give. Ona Move! Long Live John

Events and Contacts

On March 6 beginning at 9 a.m. a "Free Mumia" Western Regional
including workshops and plenary sessions will be held at the University
California at Berkeley in the Pauley Ballroom. One of the workshops
be "Labor Support to Free Mumia" in which the ILWU will be

On April 24 a national mobilization, one on the West Coast in San
Francisco and one on the East Coast in Philadelphia, will be held.

For information on these events contact the Mobilization to Free Mumia
Abu-Jamal at 415-821-0459 or the Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia
Abu-Jamal at P.O. Box 16222; Oakland, CA 94610; telephone 510-763-2347.