Revolution #183, November 15, 2009

It’s Right to Fight Against Oppression!

Political Prisoners in the U.S.

The U.S. rulers go around the world masquerading as opponents of injustice and political repression. But inside the U.S., there are political prisoners who have been incarcerated, many for decades, for standing up and resisting against the crimes of the imperialists around the world and here in this country. Most of them are Black and Latino, some are white. Hundreds of activists with the Black Panther Party and other revolutionary organizations were targeted by the COINTELPRO political police in the 1960s and early 1970s. Some were assassinated, and many others were locked down in America’s dungeons.

Two of the U.S. political prisoners known internationally are Mumia Abu-Jamal and Leonard Peltier.

Mumia Abu-Jamal has been on death row since 1982 when he was railroaded for the murder of a Philadelphia cop. December 9, 1981, Mumia was driving his cab in downtown Philadelphia when he saw a cop viciously beating his brother. Mumia rushed to help his brother, and there was a confrontation. When the smoke cleared, Mumia had been shot in the chest and was lying on the sidewalk in a pool of his own blood. A cop lay on the street nearby, dying from bullet wounds. The police charged Mumia, who was well known to them as a revolutionary journalist and a former Black Panther, with the murder of the cop.

At the trial, Mumia was denied the right to serve as his own attorney and was barred from the courtroom for half his trial. Months after the incident, cops “remembered” a supposed confession by Mumia. Witnesses were coerced into giving false testimony. Key evidence was never seen by the jury. A court reporter overheard the trial judge saying that he was going to help the cops “fry the n****r.” Mumia was convicted and sentenced to death.

A determined mass movement prevented the state from executing Mumia in 1995, and the fight to win his freedom has become an international cause. He is held at the SCI Greene Supermax prison in Pennsylvania, and the fight for justice for Mumia continues. Earlier this year, a federal appeals court upheld a lower-court decision overturning Mumia’s death sentence, but let stand the original conviction on murder. Mumia’s appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court on this decision has been turned down. But there has not been a ruling on the state’s appeal that aims to have Mumia’s death sentence reinstated—these are serious and dangerous developments.

Mumia has held firm through 27 years in solitary confinement and repeated threats of execution. Indeed, he has spoken out powerfully from Death Row in several books, regular radio commentary, and written essays. News about Mumia’s case is available at the website of the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal at Mumia’s radio essays can be found at Prison Radio,

Leonard Peltier was framed by the U.S. government for the killing of two FBI agents who attacked an American Indian Movement (AIM) camp on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota in 1975. Peltier and others were in the camp helping protect people on the reservation from the “Reign of Terror”—a campaign by the U.S. government, led by the FBI, that led to the murder of 64 AIM members and supporters. This campaign of terror was punishment for the 1973 uprising at Wounded Knee—during which hundreds of Indian people and their supporters stood up against the U.S. government-backed murder and intimidation of AIM.

It was during the Reign of Terror that two armed FBI agents were killed. In 1977 Peltier was framed up and railroaded for the killing. He has been held behind bars ever since, under two consecutive life terms. all his appeals were denied and parole repeatedly turned down, the latest time this summer. Peter Matthiessen’s 1992 book In the Spirit of Crazy Horse: The Story of Leonard Peltier and the FBI’s War on the American Indian Movement,provides a gripping account of what happened at Pine Ridge and Peltier’s frameup. The story is also told on screen in the documentary Incident at Oglala: The Leonard Peltier Story (Robert Redford, executive producer and narrator; Michael Apted, director), and inspired the dramatized film Thunderheart (starring Val Kilmer and Sam Shepard; directed by Michael Apted).

In recent years, Peltier has suffered from serious and painful health problems. But throughout all the years of the government railroad and unjust imprisonment, Leonard Peltier has remained unrepentant and unbroken. The stark injustice of Peltier’s railroad and his strong stand has inspired widespread support.

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