Union Rally Calls for Struggle Against Racism and Repression 

A Report from the Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal (LAC)

   The Education Committee of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU)—the longshore workers of the West Coast U.S.—held a rally against racism titled: “Racism Repression and Rebellion: The Lessons of Labor Defense,” at the longshore hiring hall in San Francisco on February 14, 2009. Attended by over 300, this energized rally was addressed by (among others) Martina Correia, the sister of Troy Davis, an innocent man on death row in Georgia.  She detailed Troy’s case, in which seven out of nine witnesses have recanted their testimony, citing police pressure.

The 11th Circuit recently heard what may be Davis’ last appeal, in a case that should have been thrown out years ago. Davis is a police frame-up victim in a system crowded with injustice.  Attendees chanted “Free Troy Davis,” after her address.

Robert R Bryan, lead attorney for Mumia Abu-Jamal, also spoke. Jamal is a former Black Panther, a journalist and another victim of police frame-up—he’s been on death row in Pennsylvania for 27 years for a crime he didn’t commit. Just after the rally, with the ILWU hall nearly cleared out, Mumia Abu-Jamal himself called in to Bryan’s cell phone. This call was supposed to have happened during the rally, but death row inmates can’t guarantee when they can make such calls, through no fault of their own.

The 25-30 or so who were left in the hall crowded around speakers as Robert Bryan held his cell phone up to the microphone. Mumia’s beautiful, gentle nature came through, along with his highly conscious analysis of his surroundings. Robert asked him about an inmate near him who had recently hanged himself, and Mumia reported that this inmate, who had been understandably depressed, was left hanging in his cell for over two hours.

In his brief conversation, Mumia repeated his appreciation of the ILWU, which in 1999 shut down all the ports on the West Coast to free Mumia. Labor action has been a hallmark of this union, which has also conducted work stoppages to protest the Pinochet coup in Chile, and against apartheid in South Africa. In 2008, longshore workers shut the ports again to demand an immediate end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As Jack Heyman of the ILWU pointed out in an op-ed piece that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on February 11, just before the event, U.S. longshore workers are not alone in taking action against imperialist crimes. Just last week, dockworkers in Durban, South Africa, protested what they called “apartheid Israel’s massacres in Gaza” of Palestinians, refusing to offload the Israeli ship Johanna Russ and calling on dockworkers around the world to follow their act of solidarity. “The South African dockworkers credited the San Francisco longshoremen’s 1984 action against apartheid as their inspiration,” said Heyman.

Mumia Abu-Jamal hardly ever speaks of his own case, and instead urges his supporters to rally to the defense of other victims of the racist criminal “justice” system, cases such as that of Troy Davis. This is shown in his forthcoming book, published by City Lights Publishers of San Francisco, titled, Jailhouse Lawyers, Prisoners Defending Prisoners v. the U.S.A.Look for this in March. 

Other speakers at the event included the Rev. Cecil Williams of Glide Memorial Church; Richard Brown, a former Black Panther and member of the SF 8, a group of police-victimized defendants; Pierre Labossiere, a Haitian activist and founding member of the Haiti Action Committee; and JR, journalist and Minister of Information of the Prisoners of Conscience Committee (POCC).

Former political prisoner Curly Estremera read his poem, “41 Shots and 19 Hits,” which was appreciated by all in attendance. Speakers also included representatives of Campaign To End the Death Penalty, who spoke about Kevin Cooper and Darrell Lomax, death row inmates in San Quentin State Prison in California, and the Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Cultural events at the program included San Francisco Poet Laureate Jack Hirschman, poet, Agneta Falk, and Tayo Aluko, a Nigerian writer/actor portraying Paul Robeson. Upsurge: jazz poetry/music opened the program. Clarence Thomas, and Jack Heyman of the ILWU both chaired the event.

KPFA news covered the event. Find this report in their archive at

— The Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal (LAC),February 15, 2009