Special to Workers World

July 3 will mark 40 years since Black Panther Party member, activist and revolutionary journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal was given the racist death sentence for the alleged murder of a Philadelphia cop. As a result of police, prosecutorial and judicial misconduct in a highly contested trial, Abu-Jamal has been incarcerated since December 1981 under inhumane and illegal imprisonment — which included almost 30 years in solitary confinement on Pennsylvania’s death row. 

Despite numerous appeals, in July 1995 then-Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge signed Abu-Jamal’s death warrant to be carried out on Aug. 15 — in the midst of Black August. An international movement responded, filling the streets of Philadelphia and other cities with thousands of protesters and forcing the state to back down. Workers World Party was key among organizers of that protest and many since.

The Fraternal Order of Police and their reactionary supporters have pushed for Mumia’s murder since his unjust conviction, never failing to hide their white-supremacist views. As a nationally recognized Black journalist, Abu-Jamal found himself in their crosshairs when he confronted racist Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo, former head of the police department, over his brutal and bigoted handling of the August 1978 confrontation with the MOVE organization.

The FOP was dealt a major blow when — after nearly two decades of international protests — Mumia’s death sentence was overturned by a federal court ruling in December 2001. After another 10 years on death row, in 2011 he was given a just as cruel, life in prison without parole sentence. But this wasn’t good enough for the reactionaries. They wanted him and all other Black political prisoners to suffer and die. 

The movement said: Hell no! Mumia Abu-Jamal will be free! 

The struggle to free our brother has only grown stronger throughout the last 10 years. In 2016 a door opened in the legal struggle for his case to continue on appeal, based on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling: Williams v. Pennsylvania. In December 2018 Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Leon Tucker allowed Mumia’s original appeals to be reheard. His next court appearance is scheduled for Philadelphia’s Common Pleas Court June 29. 

The movement, determined to win Mumia’s release, must continue to grow — despite every effort by the FOP, the courts and other capitalist state forces to block his liberation. To mark the 40th anniversary of the sentencing, there will be demonstrations in at least 40 cities around the globe. Come to Philadelphia, or plan a protest where you live.

Over recent years political prisoners including the MOVE 9, Russell Maroon Shoats, Jalil Muntaqim, David Gilbert and Sundiata Acoli have been freed. Let’s make Mumia next!

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