U.S. District Court Judge Robert Mariani on Aug. 31 denied a request from Mumia Abu-Jamal, an imprisoned former Black Panther Party member and journalist, for lifesaving medication that could cure his hepatitis C.
In response, dozens of activists from both New York and Philadelphia held rallies at three different locations in the latter city over a five-hour period on Sept. 7. The actions started at the Philadelphia Health Center at South Broad and Lombard streets, because hep C is a health issue. Pennsylvania Department of Correction officials are refusing to treat 6,000 state prison residents who have it. The disease is now curable through effective, but outrageously priced, medications.
Next, the moving protest marched to Gov. Tom Wolf’s office at 200 South Broad St., because the state’s highest-ranking official could put a stop to the DOC’s inhumane policies on hep C. However, Wolf has refused to meet with state residents concerned about the deteriorating health of Mumia and thousands of other prison inmates.
The march ended outside District Attorney Seth Williams’ office across the street from City Hall, because Mumia’s appeal against his conviction was denied at the State Supreme Court level, with the help of former DA and State Supreme Court member Ron Castille. Castille refused to take himself off the appeal case in 1998 despite his involvement in Mumia’s conviction.
A recent precedent-setting U.S. Supreme Court decision, Williams v. Pennsylvania, 136 S.Ct. 1989 (2016), holds that it is a violation of due process rights if a judge participating in a criminal appeal had “a significant personal involvement as a prosecutor in a critical decision” in the defendant’s case. Current DA Seth Williams has also repeatedly spoken out against Mumia’s freedom.
Mumia has been imprisoned in Pennsylvania since he was convicted of killing a police officer in 1981. He has always maintained his innocence. An international movement prevented him from being executed and in 2011, the political prisoner won his release from death row. He continues to be held in prison in Frackville, Pa.