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Fourth of July protest stands up for Mumia

Published Jul 9, 2008 11:07 PM

As tourists lined up to visit the Liberty Bell here, chants of “Brick by brick, wall by wall; we’re gonna free Mumia Abu-Jamal” echoed across Independence Plaza. It was the annual gathering to demand justice for an innocent political prisoner who has spent 26 years on Pennsylvania’s death row.

Children from the MOVE family at July 4th
demonstration for Mumia Abu-Jamal.
WW photos: Joe Piette

On July 1, 1982, Judge Albert Sabo, known as the “hanging judge,” encouraged jurors in the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal to return a verdict “quickly,” in time to “enjoy your Fourth of July holiday.” On July 2, a guilty verdict came in. On July 3, Abu-Jamal was sentenced to death.

By July 4, the jurists were home to celebrate with their families. While evidence of Mumia Abu-Jamal’s innocence clearly exists, jurors were never shown it, nor has any court of law agreed to hear it to this day.

Taina Asili speaks and sings
at Mumia rally.

Twenty-six years later the people are still demanding justice, vowing that the Fourth of July will never be celebrated in Philadelphia without protest until Mumia is free.

Children of members of the MOVE organization drove home this point by carrying signs reading “9,491 days since Mumia Abu-Jamal was illegally sentenced to death.” Nine-year-old Chad Africa told the crowd, “Police murdered my family and they are still murdering political activists.”

Pam Africa of International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal addressed the crowd on the links between struggles for political prisoners like Mumia and the MOVE 9 and the war in Iraq. “Today the government uses bombs and planes against innocent people in Iraq, while 40 years ago the Philadelphia police used hand grenades and thousands of pounds of ammunition in Powelton Village against the MOVE family.

“Just like with Mumia, there is evidence that MOVE members are innocent, but the court won’t parole them if they don’t admit ‘remorse.’ They’re not guilty–what do they have to apologize for? In 1978 the state was waging a war on the Black community. Today our sons and daughters are sent overseas to fight for these same forces.”

Several hip-hop artists provided edutainment for the participants. They included Taina Asili, Rebel Diaz and Tha Truth.

Attorneys for Abu-Jamal are currently appealing recent rulings by the Federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The rulings upheld a 2000 decision by Judge William Yohn to lift the death sentence, yet denied Abu-Jamal’s appeals for a new trial based on racism in jury selection and prosecutorial misconduct in his 1982 hearing and 1995 appeal.