Behind Bars

Some Musings on the Subject of Political Prisoners and Mumia Abu-Jamal

By Lynne Stewart

Presented to the Berlin Conference on Political Prisoners, March 19, 2011.

In the USA we hope we are experiencing that groundswell of a time when events and history come together; that the protest against what is happening to civil service workers will result in such a wave of people-power that change will start breaking out for all of us. (It should be noted that this outpouring of people’s outrage is not INSTITUTIONALIZED—not led by the unions or the established left but mainly by outraged individuals and students, who are not coming out for a rally on the weekend and then resuming life as usual—the plasma TV, the remote control, beer, sports and the SUV. No, People seem to be ready to make it happen this time. For the common good.

We need it and mostly we need it for our political prisoners and prisoners of war. This group of morally incorruptible and creative and clear political thinkers, dating from the righteous struggles of the ’60s; some of whom have been in the depths of dungeons for more than a lifetime, and others, who are relative newcomers (like me, Bradley Manning, of Wikileaks; and Tim DeChristopher, the man who bid on the Utah oil leases and disrupted Bush’s last environmental gifting to the financially elite.)

Of course, officially there are “no political prisoners in the U.S.;” just like officially, the government is now trying to say, they always supported the anti-Mubarak forces and democracy for Egypt. History says differently, and we must be ready to seize the moment to pressure for release of the unjustly imprisoned 100-plus men and women, known to be incarcerated for their espoused political motivations. (This number sadly does not include the Muslims, but that’s a struggle for another day.)

We do not deserve to be called a movement if we do not rescue our own. Their absolute and abiding faith in us to do so remains the litmus test of our dedication and belief in solidarity. It is stronger than any religious belief I know of.

We must recognize that COINTELPRO has now morphed into the outrageous entrapment tactics of FBI informants targeting mosques and youth of color. It is hard to believe that juries are swallowing the swill served up to them by the Government—but the history of America says differently. How many Black men were lynched and more lately convicted of rape because it was an easy kill—racism + sex = GUILTY? Then it was communism and anarchism—Sacco and Vanzetti—the deportation of Emma Goldman followed by McCarthy and the witch hunts of the ’50s. Then the ’60s and the attacks on the Black Panthers and Black Liberation Army, and any movement that sought real change.

Fast forward to now and we have countless “terrorist” plots by men and women who can’t even do the math or who have been lured by dollar or glory promises, and grand jury subpoenas for Green terrorism and supporters of righteous movements abroad.

Many of our U.S. political prisoners are well known internationally. Mumia Abu-Jamal epitomizes the best among us politically and as a racial champion. His brilliant insights collected weekly by Noelle Hanrahan for broadcast and his courage as he toughs it out on Death Row must bring a deep commitment from all of us not to allow them to subject him to his state-contrived death.

He is the best of the best. Likewise Leonard Peltier, a warrior who enlisted in a war that has been waged for 400 years against the U.S. planned genocide of native people. Both men are innocent of the crimes for which they continue to rot in prison. And the State knows it. At this time there is little hope for relief for either man through legal channels. No! Their freedom depends on whether, we, the people can be organized, rise up and demand it. Make it happen. We challenge a wily opponent; one who in the ’60s was able to buy our movement and con people with notions that poverty pimping was organizing for change. We know better. There is a new generation. The freedom of our own must be realized and it must be soon. We cannot be deterred.

We ask and resolve that the international community joins us. This struggle is a dire one because of the age of our captured heroes. We must Free Mumia! Leonard shall be returned to the Lakota and all native peoples! Free All Political Prisoners! Free ’em all.

You can write to Lynne Stewart at:

Lynne Stewart #53504-054, Unit 2N, Federal Medical Center, Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TEXAS 76127

Contributions can be made to:

Lynne Stewart Defense Committee, 1070 Dean Street, Brooklyn, New York 11216, For further information: 718-789-0558 or 917-853-9759