Organized in less than 24 hours, around 50 supporters of political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal rallied outside Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s office March 12. They demanded Krasner immediately release 66-year-old Abu-Jamal, who has tested positive for COVID-19.
Abu-Jamal, hospitalized March 3 to remove excessive fluid from his lungs, was diagnosed with congestive heart disease. During this treatment, his legs and arms were inhumanely shackled to the hospital bed for four days, creating additional and unnecessary suffering. Abu-Jamal described his body as “being on fire.” His supporters call this “medical torture.”
Pam Africa, with International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia, compared Mumia’s current skin condition to a few years ago. Suffering from COVID-19, with cirrhosis of the liver due to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections’ denial of hepatitis C drugs, his entire body is covered with a severe skin ailment obvious from the two contrasting photos shown to the demonstrators.
Africa denounced National Public Radio for hiring media consultant Annette John Hall, who cruelly called Abu-Jamal supporters earlier in the day to gather information in preparation “for writing his obituary.” Abu-Jamal was a journalist for NPR from 1979 to 1981, before management asked him to resign after his outspoken defense of the MOVE organization. NPR has only recently given coverage to his current appeal and health crisis.
Released in 2019 after 41 years of incarceration, MOVE 9 members Janet and Janine Africa described the impact a lengthy prison term can have on one’s body. They raised concerns that the state is now trying to kill Mumia the same way MOVE 9 members Phil and Merle Africa suddenly died in prison.
Like many incarcerated people, Abu-Jamal’s health crisis can be linked directly to years of medical neglect. Dr. Ricardo Alvarez, Abu-Jamal’s medical consultant, says, “50% of people diagnosed with congestive heart disease do not live past five years. A patient’s survival requires proper meds, physical therapy and other life-altering changes.”
The PA DOC’s inhumane policies make it impossible for anyone to change their diet, get more exercise or fresh air, reduce stress or receive proper medicines. This is the reason why Abu-Jamal, and other incarcerated people suffering from similar life-threatening ailments, must be released. Alvarez stated, “The only acceptable treatment for Mumia Abu-Jamal is his freedom.”
Abu-Jamal is one of thousands of elderly prisoners with ailing health due to inhumane prison conditions that include lack of proper food, decades of bad water, medical neglect, the year-long stress of 23-hour-per-day lockdown because of COVID-19 and the elimination of contact visits.
Under PA DOC policies, incarcerated people bear the brunt of the pandemic. Prison guards and staff — the virus carriers — can travel freely from outside the walls into multiple prison units. Over 2,000 Pennsylvania prisoners have tested positive for COVID-19. More than 110 have died.
At the end of the rally, protesters took to the streets, marching against traffic and blocking busy South Broad Street for about 20 minutes.
Mumia is innocent. He is in the middle of legal challenges that could finally prove his innocence and win his freedom, but Krasner and the FOP have purposely contested and delayed the process. Justice delayed is justice denied!
Photo Credit: Joe Piette