A 16-foot puppet of Mumia Abu-Jamal greeted participants and passersby July 3 at a rally: “In the spirit of Consuewella Africa! We must all MOVE to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal & All Political Prisoners.” On July 3, 1982, political prisoner Abu-Jamal was given a death sentence by Judge Albert Sabo. Annual demonstrations in Philadelphia have marked this date.
The rally, across from City Hall at the Municipal Services Building plaza, was held beneath a mural honoring Black women leaders in the struggle against police brutality. Faces depicted include Ramona Africa, Pam Africa and YahNé Ndgo, who facilitated the rally.
Ndgo opened stating, “We must eradicate this entire prison industry and start by liberating our freedom fighters in these prisons, specifically because they have spoken truth to power. If one of us is taken, the rest of us will fight to right this wrong. Free all political prisoners!”
Shortly into the rally, a sudden rainstorm forced attendees to shelter under the overhang below the mural. There Ndgo spoke of Consuewella Africa, a MOVE member who lost two daughters in 1985, when Philadelphia officials bombed the family’s West Philadelphia home and slaughtered family members. She died June 16 from stress brought on after learning how the city mistreated her daughters’ remains.
A message from Mumia remembering Consuewella was played. (tinyurl.com/h84s7vfm) Cindy Miller, with Food Not Bombs Solidarity, read a tribute to Consuewella from Rowan University professor Dr. Sandra Joy. FNBS provided snacks and water for people at the rally, including unhoused people gathered in the plaza.
Johanna Fernandez, with the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home, discussed Mumia’s case and took questions regarding his current legal status. “Nothing is going to deter us from freeing Mumia Abu-Jamal and freeing political prisoners or from the larger fight for freedom — not the rain or the nativists out here celebrating July 4th.
“As Mumia said, social movements change history. Just two years ago, few people were talking about police abolition. When people hit the streets and engage in militant action, they change the political debate and discussion. They raise up new politics and a new morality, and we start imagining different ways of organizing society.
“We are calling for system change — you can’t negotiate with capitalism, with white supremacy. Their forces are organized. They have the money and the power. We need to build a culture of discipline and consistency. They are the few, but we are many.”
Bring Judge Tucker back to hear Mumia’s case
In response to a question about the recent transfer of Judge Leon Tucker from the Common Pleas Court, Fernandez said, “Tucker was the only judge in Pennsylvania who spoke the truth about this case. His rulings on Mumia’s appeal allowed the case to move to the appeal process.” She proposed Tucker be brought back to hear Mumia’s appeals.
There is precedent. Judge Albert Sabo was brought back from retirement in 1995 to rule over Mumia’s Post Conviction Relief Appeals. The case is currently before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which is filled with white-supremacist judges.
“Our lawyers are demanding that the case be remanded to lower court and that Tucker be allowed to review new evidence which suggests that cops and prosecutors bribed witnesses to convict Mumia,” Fernandez concluded.
Other speakers included Dominique Wallace, widow of Walter Wallace Jr., murdered by Philadelphia police Oct. 26, 2020. Indigenous activist Arika Gold-Bustos reminded the crowd that the July 4 holiday celebrates white supremacists’ theft and occupation of Indigenous land. Palestinian activist Susan Abulhawa spoke of Mumia’s contributions to the understanding of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine.
Dominique McQuade, representing unhoused people occupying the plaza, thanked organizers for providing food and much needed water and Gatorade, given the recent heat wave. Spoken word artist Blak Rapp Madusa performed.
Baba Zayid Muhammad, with the Newark Anti-Violence Coalition, gave recognition to the many young activist in the crowd. Betsey Piette, from Workers World, credited the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the police murder of George Floyd for moving more corporate media to cover social struggles. Olivia Backal-Balik announced a Turn up Tuesday July 6 call-in to Gov. Tom Wolf’s office demanding Mumia’s release. (Mobilization4Mumia.com)
Abdul Aliy Mohammad, who helped uncover what happened to Consuewella’s daughters, described the state’s terror against MOVE. “They were surveilled, terrorized, imprisoned and murdered by the state. The May 13, 1985, bombing was deliberate — Police Commissioner Gregore Sambor intended to kill everyone in the house.
“The city had evacuated and barricaded Osage Avenue. On May 12, the state let young MOVE members, including Tree and Netta, pass the barrier and reenter the house.
“The big lie is that this was ‘the last resort,’ that they could find no other tactic than to bomb the house with a [military] grade C4 bomb. It was an intentional bombing. Eighteen months before the attack, the bomb disposal unit, under Sambor, City Manager Leo Brooks and the person who dropped the actual bomb satchel were in Fairmount Park practicing how to use a bomb. It was deliberate. It was terrorism — state violence. There is so much to be uncovered here.”
Jacqueline Wade, the puppet maker, described the inspiration for the Mumia puppet project. When the rally ended and the rain stopped, the puppet was moved to the spot once occupied by the statue of Philadelphia’s former racist and fascist police commissioner and mayor, Frank Rizzo. During last summer’s protests over the murder of George Floyd, demonstrators threw red paint on the bronze Rizzo statue and tried to set it on fire. Within 24 hours the city, capitulating to years of activists’ demands, removed the statue.
For event videos: tinyurl.com/26thv5mt and tinyurl.com/2krdy2et.
WW Photo: Joe Piette