Reports of IBT participation in emergency demonstrations for
Mumia Abu-Jamal, 28-29 March

The International Bolshevik Tendency took an active role in a series of emergency demonstrations around the world on 28-29 March in protest of the outrageous decision of the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold the conviction of Mumia Abu-Jamal, an innocent man framed for a killing he had nothing to do with.

Wellington, 29 March

In Wellington, New Zealand, the IBT took the lead in organizing a small demonstration for Mumia in front of the U.S. Embassy. A number of peace activists and anarchists attended (including one of those arrested in the bogus “anti-terror” sweep last October). Bill Logan of the IBT read a statement of protest from Helen Kelly, leader of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions Te Kauae Kaimahi. Marcus Hayes, speaking on behalf of the IBT, said the following:

The first demonstration in defence of Mumia Abu-Jamal that I went on was right here about 18 years ago, in August 1990. By then Mumia had already been in jail for about 8 years. He was convicted and sentenced in 1982, 26 years ago. In 1982, Thatcher and Reagan were still in the early years of their reigns, and the Clash came to New Zealand. It is, for many, a lifetime ago. For Mumia, it’s at least half a life.

Two days ago the U.S. federal Court of Appeals in Pennsylvania finally handed down a decision in response to a number of motions put forward by Mumia’s legal team. The appeals court rejected Mumia’s motion for a new trial. Although it confirmed an earlier appeal decision quashing Mumia’s death sentence for now, it has also revived the possibility of execution, by ruling that the Pennsylvania state courts must hold a new sentencing hearing within six months, one outcome of which could be a new death sentence, or else Mumia must be sentenced to life imprisonment. This new ruling means Mumia will either be executed or spend the rest of his life in prison, unless we mobilise in his defence.

This new ruling confirms what the International Bolshevik Tendency and others involved in the campaign have been saying for a long time – that the capitalist justice system can’t be relied on to free Mumia…despite the ludicrous farce that was his original “trial.” In the U.S. justice system, in the Land of the Fee and the Home of the Slave, clearly innocence is no defence. Mumia just shouldn’t have been black and driving around the streets at night in the first place.

What can make a difference are the worldwide mobilisations in Mumia’s defence, of unionists, workers and other activists, of which this demonstration today is a small part. International protest stayed the hand of the executioner in 1995. We believe that the mobilisation of the labour movement and the working class can make the decisive difference.

Many of you will be familiar with the specifics of the racist frame-up that put Mumia on death row in the early 1980s as a supposed cop-killer. The prosecution’s ballistics evidence was ludicrously weak – in fact it supported Mumia’s innocence. The eyewitness testimony mostly supported Mumia’s story not the prosecution’s, but the prosecution and the police leaned heavily on several witnesses, threatening them with lengthy jail time.

The centrepiece of the prosecution’s case was a supposed “confession” from Mumia. The genesis of this confession went basically like this – months after Mumia was arrested and beaten by the Philadelphia cops, the prosecutors were having a meeting with the cops who were involved.

The prosecutor says something like “Hmm, thinking about our evidence in this case, I don’t suppose any of you guys heard him confess?” And the cops say “Well, now that you come to mention it, back in the hospital that night, we did hear him confess.” You can imagine how something like that would have slipped their minds the first time around. The confession story was directly contrary to the reports of the medical staff and the cop who were with Mumia that night.

Mumia’s case is of course not just about Mumia, something that Mumia himself has always been very aware of. It’s about the racism that’s a structural element of the U.S. state, its justice system, and the death penalty. Mumia’s conviction was retribution by the Philadelphia city establishment for years of outspoken opposition to racist police brutality.

More generally, the racist death penalty is an important means of state terrorism and intimidation. It’s the modern version of lynching, with some judicial process thrown in – and for Mumia and many others, not even very much of that.

. . .

If Mumia is set free, it will be a significant blow against the racist U.S. justice system. The appeals judges who handed down this latest decision two days ago know that very well.

Events in the last few months in New Zealand have made even clearer the parallels between state terror by the U.S. capitalist state, both in the U.S. and abroad, and the racist state terror practised by the NZ Pakeha capitalist state. In October last year and subsequently, the state here has targeted those who are among the most vocal opponents of racism, particularly with a long tradition of opposition to and independence from the NZ state.

From Governor Grey’s massive raid on the Waikato in the early 1860s, to the attacks on Tuhoe in the Ureweras during WWI, to Bastion Pt in the late 1970s, to Moutoa Gardens in the mid-1990s, to 2007 and 2008, there’s a clear line of racist attacks, attacks which have been necessary to forge and maintain the rule of the Anglo-Pakeha capitalist class. These attacks have been aimed not only at direct repression of Māori – they’re about generating divisions among all working people, and preventing a unified fight against the capitalist class.

We desperately need a society that operates according to different rules – a socialist system organised by ordinary working people in their own interests. It will be then that the human species can demonstrate that racism is not an inherent part of the human condition – but rather an inherent part of particular stages of history. The fight to organise broad opposition by workers and activists in defence of Mumia Abu-Jamal is important right now, on its own terms, but it can also play a small role in building a class-based movement towards a new and better stage of history.

In London, England, IBT comrades participated in a demonstration of 30-odd across from the U.S. Embassy. The protest was initiated by the Partisan Defence Committee-Spartacist League/Britain. Christoph Lichtenberg made the following remarks for the IBT:

Hello, my name is Christoph. I am speaking on behalf of the International Bolshevik Tendency. We helped to organise the last protest here on 17 May 2007 when the Federal Appeals Court heard the oral arguments by the prosecution and Mumia’s defence team.

Mumia’s life is in danger!

Yesterday’s ruling by the court means that Mumia will either be executed or spend the rest of his life in prison. We must prevent this! The ruling class of the U.S. want to silence a critic who has spoken out against racism and police brutality. The judges, who dance to the tune of their paymasters, have returned a class verdict. They want to silence the “voice of the voiceless”.

If you are black and poor, and these two things usually go together, you count for very little – as the treatment of the black residents of New Orleans by the government has shown in the aftermath of Katrina. If you are black and poor and you fight back, the state will either throw you in jail or execute you.

Mumia is innocent. But the U.S. legal system is not interested in that. For them his innocence is just an obstacle in their quest to oppress and kill those who fight for freedom. In the past they executed the anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti. Now they want to do the same thing to Mumia. It is up to us to stop this!

International protest stayed the hand of the executioner in 1995. We believe that the mobilisation of the working class can make the decisive difference. The working class has the social power to stop the plans of the capitalist murderers.

We have always said that Mumia supporters should have no faith in the legal system. And this decision has proved that right. This is the time for action! We need more and bigger protests. We must not rest until Mumia can once again join our ranks in the fight against a system that is rotten to the core.

Join us at the next protest here on [19] April.

Mumia is innocent!

Free Mumia Abu-Jamal!

Toronto, 28 March

In Toronto, Canada, Tom Riley of the IBT made the following remarks to some 60 participants in a demonstration initiated by the Partisan Defense Committee-Trotskyist League of Canada, in front of the U.S. Consulate.

The International Bolshevik Tendency protests the outrageous decision of the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold the racist frame-up of Mumia Abu-Jamal. Mumia is an innocent man, who the U.S. ruling class wants to silence. He was targeted because he was a Black Panther, and then a MOVE supporter, who was not afraid to oppose injustice.

The key to winning Mumia’s freedom lies in mobilizing the power of organized labor and its allies. In April 1999, the longshore union provided an example of this when they shut down every port on the U.S. West Coast in solidarity with Mumia. On Mayday this year the ILWU [International Longshore and Warehouse Union] is again planning on shutting down shipping on the West Coast—this time in opposition to the imperialist wars being waged by Canada, Britain, the U.S. and others in Afghanistan and Iraq. A successful action of this sort can provide important momentum for broader class struggle in North America and thus concretely advance the fight to free Mumia.

We in the IBT have been active in defense of Mumia since 1991. We have participated in every demonstration in Toronto in his defense, and have co-sponsored and helped initiate a number of actions. We proposed to the PDC that today’s demonstration be organized as a united front of all those groups which support the demand for Mumia’s freedom, but they rejected that. This is a sectarian error in our view because the fight to win Mumia’s freedom will be stronger by uniting the efforts of all those who support him—rather than having any particular small group try to exert control.

At the same time, we recognize that the PDC, and particularly its American parent the Spartacist League, has played a very important role in Mumia’s defense. Their single most important contribution was to uncover the real story about the killing of officer Daniel Faulkner and obtaining the confession of the real killer—Arnold Beverly.

But the U.S. federal courts, like those of Pennsylvania, have decreed that innocence is no defense for a black person targeted by their racist “justice” system and have refused to hear Beverly’s confession. The decision of the Third Circuit stands as a stark reminder that oppressed people can expect no justice from the capitalist courts. That is why we of the IBT have always rejected the liberal/reformist call raised by some leftists for a “New Trial” for Mumia. Mumia is innocent! We call for freeing him, not recycling him through the racist system that framed him up in the first place!

As Marxists we know that justice for working people and the oppressed will only be obtained through the revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist social system which is based on exploitation, racism and oppression!

The IBT took the lead in organizing a small protest in Albany, New York. We participated in a rally of 200 for Mumia in Harlem (New York City) organized by the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition and also in a PDC-Spartacist League event in Oakland that drew more than 30 participants. In Germany our comrades raised Mumia’s case while participating in a demonstration in Mönchengladbach in defense of jailed class-war prisoners of the Red Army Faction.

Mönchengladbach, 29 March

Posted: 30 March 2008