Sunday, January 22, 2012

Free Mumia Campaign Intensifies

Free Mumia campaign intensifies

Published Jan 21, 2012 4:01 PM
By Jamila Wilson

“It is our job to give people hope and help people see this is people power. We are winners. We can never be discouraged.”

These words from the ever-present representative of people power, Pam Africa, minister of confrontation with the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, kicked off a Jan. 8 organizing meeting for the Free Mumia Campaign.

Educators for Mumia, Millions for Mumia, the International Action Center and other grassroots organizations joined Concerned Family and Friends at the Calvary Church in Philadelphia to discuss the next steps to win Abu-Jamal’s release from prison. Major initiatives have been established for local, national and international actions around the Free Mumia Campaign.

Organizing on the local level includes holding Seth Williams, Philadelphia’s district attorney, accountable to former District Attorney Lynne Abraham’s pledge to “release people” when issues of corruption and police misconduct occur in the judicial system, as is the case for Abu-Jamal.

The local initiative also includes a “meet Mumia” project. “People don’t really know who Mumia Abu-Jamal is … they need to get to know him as a person,” said Kevin Price of the local organizing group.

The group also discussed how they would influence communities’ conversations to include Abu-Jamal’s name and case by circulating Mumia’s “Message to the Movement” statement to the Occupy Wall Street movement, as well as promoting his latest book, “Classroom and the Cell.”

On the national front, a pledge campaign “to Occupy for Mumia and End Mass Incarceration” will kick off organizing efforts for a national rally and protest on April 24, when activists will descend upon Washington, D.C., to occupy the Department of Justice for Mumia.

The pledge campaign is designed to engage different constituents, including youth, religious groups and public figures, to lend their voice and support for the Occupy for Mumia and End Mass Incarceration movement. Another key constituent being engaged is the national Occupy movement, by establishing Occupy for Mumia and Mass Incarceration working groups within local general assemblies throughout the U.S.

The international campaign shared its plan for actions to help maintain the momentum of various efforts to free Mumia, including those of public figures who have already come out in support of Abu-Jamal’s release, such as former Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

“This is an internationalist movement. Mumia is a true internationalist,” Suzanne Ross from the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition (NYC) explained.

International law and its standards on torture identify psychological torture as more than 15 days in solitary confinement. A petition campaign against torture, supported by the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, will be among the many projects undertaken by this working group.

Update on Mumia’s status

Johanna Fernandez with Educators for Mumia shared information about Abu-Jamal’s status. “On Dec. 14 around 4 a.m., Mumia was taken out of his cell on death row at SCI-Greene, surrounded by armed guards, including at least one holding a machine gun to his head, shackled and put onto a bus, with no idea where he was being taken.

“It turned out to be SCI-Mahanoy, which is about two hours from Philadelphia, but midway through this early morning trip, the bus stopped at Rockview prison, where executions are carried out. There Mumia was put on a second bus, under similar circumstances as the first, and transported to Mahanoy.”

Fernandez said that since being transported to SCI-Mahanoy, Mumia has been placed in administrative custody (A.C.), which is reserved for prisoners with disciplinary problems. After holding him nearly 30 days in A.C., SCI-Mahanoy administrators now claim, under pressure from a growing campaign demanding he be released into the general population, that the disciplinary problem “is Abu-Jamal’s insistency on not cutting his hair.” Mumia has kept his hair in dreadlocks his entire 30 years on death row.

Abu-Jamal told Fernandez, “When I was on death row, I had a dozen men around me in torturous conditions, but at SCI-Mahanoy I realized that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of men in A.C. being tortured. The U.S. could do what they did in prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay because they had already been doing this in prisons at home.”

Fernandez reported that Abu-Jamal is kept in shackles whenever he is outside his cell, a very limited amount of time each day. “He wants the movement to include not just a demand for his release, but an end to the practice of isolation cells, also known as ‘the hole,’” said Fernandez.

A Jan. 22 meeting will continue with planning and outreach for these three campaigns. Organizations and individuals interested in learning more about Abu-Jamal’s case and ways to get involved can visit and

Petitions to demand Abu-Jamal’s immediate release into general population are available through the International Action Center at and through at
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