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Militant youth lead march to defend Mumia

Published Nov 17, 2010 5:48 PM

The streets were dark and cold. Shops and stores were closing, and from a distance the only noise that could be heard came from sidewalk bistros and cafes catering to an upscale clientele. Homeless people seeking shelter hid at bus stops where small groups of workers waited for rides home. Downtown Miami was becoming a ghost town.

Almost out of nowhere the sound of conga drums shattered the silence. Megaphones amplified the voices of young protesters crying, “Free Mumia now!”

A rally of about 20 people gathered in front of the Claude Pepper Federal Building. Holding signs with photographs of Mumia Abu-Jamal, the protesters formed a picket line, chanting, “If Mumia dies, there’ll be fire in the skies!” Chants led by Miami Fight Imperialism, Stand Together were followed by members of NCOBRA and the Republic of New Africa. Poets from the radical poets’ organization GRUNTZ joined in.

Homeless people appeared from nowhere. They stood by amazed and with approving looks on their faces while dancing and stepping to the African drum beats.

In response to the ruckus, police and security stormed out of the federal building, forming a line at the entrance. Their boss must have told them to keep calm because they stayed back and left the rally alone. Chants were yelled in their direction, as activists vented their frustrations about the injustice being done to Mumia.

One brother began yelling, “Tell the truth!” Others followed with “Stop lying!” This became a popular chant: “Tell the truth! Stop lying! Tell the truth! Stop lying! Tell the truth! Stop lying!” The chant soon assumed the rhythm and flow of the drum beats.

Deep-seated anger at the system could be felt, heard and seen at that rally. Participants and observers alike were pumping their fists in the air in enthusiasm. Everyone was chanting as loud as they could. The fervor rose like mercury in a thermometer, with everyone chanting as loud as they could, some even losing their voices.

A Miami FIST youth began chanting an old Black Panther chant, “The revolution has come.” Then everyone yelled, “Free Mumia!” The chant continued, “It’s time to pick up the gun — Free Mumia!” The cops were visibly disturbed as that chant continued.

As time went on, the rally attracted more people. Black youth waiting for the bus began to grab picket signs and join the chants. Their buses came and left, but they didn’t get on them. Instead, they marched half a mile to Miami’s Torch of Friendship, a public gathering space where demonstrations are frequently held.

As protesters crossed the street to begin marching, the cops walked in front of them and ordered them to cross to another street. The cops stated that the sidewalk the protesters were attempting to use was federal property. All the cops were white, and their attitude angered the crowd. Youth began to challenge the cops, and a fight almost broke out as one of the cops reached for his holster.

An activist yelled into the megaphone, “Ignore those racist pigs. If they won’t let us march on the sidewalk, then we’ll take the streets!” Surrounded and outnumbered, the cops changed their attitude. An officer politely asked the demonstrators, “Please continue your march across the street.” Protesters marched forward, without a permit, into the night.

Although no media or TV crews caught it, we know that the state definitely took note of this action and the mood of resistance on the streets of Miami. We hope that our voices are heard and that this small contribution can influence the state and stay their hand from killing our innocent comrade, Mumia Abu-Jamal.

We also hope and have faith that those young people watching from passing cars and buses or who were just walking home and by chance saw and heard our militant march, become filled with revolutionary spirit, and are inspired to follow our lead or join us in the coming battles breaking out everyday.

Martinez is a leader of Miami FIST, which helped organize the demonstration.