People Demand Justice
for Mumia Abu-Jamal &Leonard Peltier
Revolutionary Worker #1083, December 17, 2000, posted at http://rwor.org
The movements to stop the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal and to free Leonard Peltier are at key junctures. The stories of Mumia and Leonard are the stories of great injustice--they are fighters for the people who have been hounded by this system's armed enforcers, railroaded by its courts, and held for many years in its prisons.
As we go to press, supporters of these two political prisoners are stepping up activities in the U.S. and around the world. On December 9 and 10, important protests are taking place to demand justice for Mumia Abu-Jamal and Leonard Peltier.
International Day of Actions for Mumia
Mumia's habeas corpus appeal is now before Federal District Court Judge William Yohn--while Mumia remains on death row under the shadow of a temporarily stayed death warrant. In turning down Mumia's appeals, the Pennsylvania courts refused to allow new evidence that clearly shows Mumia was unjustly convicted and sentenced to death. This means that the federal district court is now the only place where all that new evidence can be admitted into the record--and therefore be available for examination in higher appeals.
Judge Yohn is expected to begin by hearing oral arguments on whether Mumia should be granted an evidentiary hearing, or whether the federal courts will review Mumia's case based solely on the Pennsylvania court record developed by the notorious "hanging judge" Sabo. Judge Yohn could announce the start of the hearings at any time. So it is crucial at this time that the movement to stop Mumia's execution be "heard" in new ways--and with new scope.
The National Coordinating Committee for the Mumia Movement issued a call for a week of activity against the death penalty and to stop the execution of Mumia--starting on December 4 and culminating in the Dec. 9 International Day of Action. December 9 marks the date 19 years ago when Mumia was shot, arrested, and framed for the murder of a Philadelphia cop. Activists in the Mumia movement also called on people to join the March for Freedom for Leonard Peltier on December 10.
The National Coordinating Committee represents the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia, Academics for Mumia, Bruderhof communities, Campaign to End the Death Penalty, Free Mumia Coalition (NY), International Action Center, Jericho Amnesty Movement, Mobilization to Free Mumia (Northern CA), Refuse & Resist!, and Western PA Committee to Free Mumia. Pam Africa, coordinator of the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia, points out in the call: "Our continuing national and international mobilizations are the strongest way to compel Federal Judge Yohn to meet his constitutional obligation to ensure justice is done in Mumia's case."
On December 9, people marched from 96th Street and Broadway in New York City and gathered in Harlem for a mass rally at the Mother AME Zion Church. This rally for Mumia was the first of its kind in Harlem. Speakers included former New York Mayor David Dinkins; Pam Africa; actor Ruby Dee; actor Ossie Davis; Pastor Alvin Durant of Mother AME Zion Church; Leonard Weinglass, Mumia's lead attorney; Leslie Feinberg, International Action Center; Jean Day, Leonard Peltier Defense Committee; Juan Gonzalez from the New York Daily News; Elombe Brath from the Patrice Lumumba Coalition; Richie Perez from the National Congress of Puerto Rican Rights; Sam Jordan, former executive director of Amnesty International U.S.; Steven Hawkins from the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty; poet Amiri Baraka; and others. Statements from Mumia, C.Clark Kissinger, Danielle Mitterand, and Yuri Kochiyama were read.
Whenever it comes, the first day of Mumia's federal court hearing will be of particular importance. Mumia will be at the hearing--in open court for the first time since 1997. When Mumia steps into court, thousands of people must be in the streets of Philly. And leading up to the hearing, the movement for Mumia needs to awaken people all around the country to the importance of this case and send a clear message to the power structure that there are increasing numbers of people paying attention to this case, that many more people are coming to oppose this execution, and that there are serious forces determined to prevent it.
This fight poses new challenges to the movement to stop the execution. As the "Letter to the Movement: The Next Critical Period in the Battle to Save Mumia Abu-Jamal," issued earlier this year, pointed out, "[The time] leading up to the Federal District court's decision...must feature our best efforts, our strongest measures, our most creative energies."
Leonard Peltier March for Freedom
On December 10, supporters of Leonard Peltier are marching through the streets of New York City to the United Nations. Other actions are taking place around the U.S. and in various countries. The protests are demanding that U.S. President Clinton grant Peltier executive clemency--which is Peltier's only chance for a release from prison in the near future. The speakers at the UN rally include Amnesty International, author Peter Matthiessen, Alice Walker, Peltier's family, and others.
Leonard Peltier was accused of killing two FBI agents when government forces attacked an American Indian Movement (AIM) camp in July 1975. The AIM forces were at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota to defend the Indian people who were facing an intense wave of assassination and government repression--known as the "Reign of Terror"--after the 1973 Indian occupation of Wounded Knee.
In 1977 Peltier was framed-up and railroaded for the killing of the FBI agents. He has been held behind bars ever since under two consecutive life terms. Secret FBI documents which later surfaced prove that the FBI manufactured "evidence" against Peltier. Even the government has admitted that there is no evidence linking Peltier directly to the shooting. During Peltier's 1985 appeal, the U.S. attorney said outright, "We can't prove who shot these agents." In other words, Peltier was unjustly sentenced to spend life in prison for just being present as the AIM encampment defended itself.
All of Peltier's appeals have been denied over the years. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the case. At this point, Leonard can only be released through parole or executive clemency.
When Leonard Peltier was denied parole in 1993, the U.S. Parole Commission set the year 2008 as the date for the next review--many years beyond what their own guidelines suggest. The law still requires the commission to hold hearings every two years to determine if new circumstances would change their original decision.
The last such hearing took place in June of this year. In an outrageous decision, the parole examiner once again denied parole and recommended that Peltier's sentence be continued until his next full parole hearing in 2008. The examiner refused to accept or consider 10,000 letters from around the world demanding Leonard's release, including from Coretta Scott King, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Ed Asner, Kris Kristofferson, the National Association of Social Workers, and the Kennedy Memorial Center on Human Rights. He refused to read a report from a medical doctor that said the serious health problems Peltier suffers from could result in "recurrent central retinal vein occlusion, stroke, heart disease, and kidney failure." The doctor's report noted that Peltier had not received appropriate treatment from prison authorities.
Leonard Peltier has continued the struggle from behind bars--with his words, his paintings, and his organizing efforts. Leonard is known around the world as a voice for Native people and an inspiring political prisoner who refuses to be broken. In his book Prison Writings: My Life Is My Sun Dance, Leonard wrote: "I know what I am. I am an Indian--an Indian who dared to stand up to defend his people. I am an innocent man who never murdered anyone nor wanted to. And, yes, I am a Sun Dancer. That, too, is my identity. If I am to suffer as a symbol of my people, then I suffer proudly."
The battle to free Leonard Peltier has intensified over the past year. In November 1999, thousands of people traveled to Washington, DC, for the Leonard Peltier Freedom Month. In January, a Washington Post story on prisons featured a review of Peliter's new book. A Spring 2000 Awareness Tour featured Jean Day, a survivor of the Pine Ridge Reign of Terror, speaking on campuses across the country. The FBI has responded with a disinformation campaign against Leonard. Newspapers, radio ads, and a website full of lies have appeared.
The White House recently announced that President Clinton is considering a number of clemency requests before leaving office in January, including that of Leonard Peltier. This made the FBI even more hog wild--FBI Director Louis Freeh wrote a letter directly to Clinton demanding that Peltier's request for clemency be denied.
Leonard Peltier has now served 24 long years in prison. This is a great injustice--and the people demand freedom for this important fighter.
More information on Mumia Abu-Jamal and Leonard Peltier are available at rwor.org
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