Mumia Speaks at Goddard College
On Sunday, October 5th, 2014 world-renowned revolutionary journalist and author Mumia Abu-Jamal, an innocent political prisoner known as the “voice of the voiceless,” was heard loud and clear at Goddard College, his alma mater. Though confined in a Pennsylvania state prison for life without parole for a crime he didn’t commit, Mumia’s recorded commencement address was heard because Goddard College students, having invited him to speak, defied the demands of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and right-wing politicians and media that his address be cancelled and he be silenced. Goddard’s Interim President, Robert Kenny backed up the students.
Mumia’s thought-provoking address was deeply moving, philosophical and generously considerate of the students he was addressing, as he urged them to work for progressive change. It was met with a standing ovation. As Noelle Hanrahan, of Prison Radio, the organization that records and makes available Mumia’s commentaries, said in a report from Goddard:
“As I stood in the front of the packed Haybarn Theater, the electricity, tension, and courage was palpable. The students were graceful, celebratory, and committed. Faculty College Chair Dr. Herukhuti and College President Robert Kenny stood up to the death threats and pressure and defended their and Mumia’s right to free speech.” (See, “Educate to Liberate,” at prisonradio.org)
Mumia’s presentation at Goddard is reprinted in its entirety in this issue of Socialist Viewpoint.
Students defy the mudslide of lies
To make this speech happen, Goddard students and the College’s President had to withstand a veritable mudslide of endless lies and innuendo against Mumia. The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the leading cop “union” in the U.S., blasted Goddard College for its failure to cancel Mumia’s presentation, and denounced Mumia as “a remorseless killer who murdered Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner.” The Vermont Troopers Association (Goddard College is in Vermont), and the PA Department of Corrections chimed in with similar denunciations, though the Corrections Department head John Wetzel was forced to admit that he couldn’t deny Mumia’s right of free speech, much as he would have liked to.
Perhaps the most vile and opportunistic attack came from PA’s junior Senator, Patrick Toomey, a right-wing Republican who opposes abortion rights and government regulation, sucks up to the barons of finance capital, and undermines public schools with support for privatization and charters, among other things. Toomey’s letter to Goddard’s President fairly reeks of the worst falsehoods about Mumia’s case, that he “never expressed any regret for his heinous crime” (he always maintained his innocence), that multiple witnesses saw him “shoot multiple bullets into Officer Faulkner’s back, chest and face” (all witnesses who claimed to see the shooting either admitted they lied under police pressure, or were discredited later for lying), and that “three other eyewitnesses heard Abu-Jamal brag that he had shot Officer Faulkner” (a total after-the-fact fabrication by cops and prosecutors, later admitted to be a lie by the civilian so-called “witnesses”).
Toomey even threw in the total fabrication that Mumia had “smirked” at Faulkner’s wife Maureen in court when Faulkner’s bloodied shirt was displayed—Mumia wasn’t even present in court at that time, having been excluded by the racist judge from his own trial!
The worst may be yet to come
Something even worse than Toomey’s lying rant is now being prepared. Philadelphia cops had the nerve to hold a vigil at 13th and Locust in Philadelphia, the site of the shooting of Officer Faulkner, which was most likely a police hit on one of their own (evidence shows that Faulkner was talking to the Feds about the rampant corruption of cops with the mob in center city Philadelphia). And a group of police officers holding pictures of Daniel Faulkner lined the entrance to Goddard on the day of Mumia’s address.
This sort of political mobilization of police has mushroomed repeatedly around Mumia Abu-Jamal (and others such as American Indian Movement activist Leonard Peltier, also in prison for a crime he didn’t commit), and a major escalation is now in the works. Egged on by the FOP cops in PA, suddenly there is a law in the Pennsylvania legislature designed to silence political prisoners like Mumia. As the Philadelphia Enquirer snarled,
“A day after Mumia Abu-Jamal addressed graduates of a Vermont college, a [PA] House committee advanced a bill to give the family of the police officer he was convicted of killing a way to shut him up.”
This blatantly unconstitutional bill, Signed into law by Governor Corbett, October 21, 2014, lets crime victims or their relatives seek injunctive relief “if the criminals that harmed them seek publicity from the crime in any way.” The bill’s author, Republican Mike Vereb, said it would allow crime victims or prosecutors “to bring a civil action to halt conduct by an offender if it causes the victim or the victim’s family severe mental anguish.” (Philadelphia Enquirer, October 6-7, 2014)
Silencing Mumia has long been the system’s goal
These outrageous attacks on Mumia’s free speech rights, and callous misrepresentations of the facts of Mumia’s case are not an accident: they are part of a long-standing, orchestrated attempt to silence Mumia, if not by the death penalty—that failed—then by other means. This police-driven system is determined to defend its frame-up of a victim of police racism, corruption, and murder (including the attempted murder of Mumia himself by police, and the murder of their own, which was likely Faulkner’s actual fate).
In 1994, after months of recordings by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio, and several on air promotions by National Public Radio for “All Things Considered,” NPR executives abruptly cancelled Mumia’s “Live From Death Row” series of commentaries. NPR cancelled the planned series following an attack on the floor of Congress by then Senator Bob Dole, following an intensive lobbying campaign of lies by the FOP. Mumia’s commentaries were later taken up by Democracy Now!, on Pacifica Radio, although the carefully recorded commentaries due to air on NPR remain locked in their vaults—silenced, by public radio! (See the book, All Things Censored, Seven Stories Press, 2000).
Oakland school board capitulates to police censorship
Earlier this year, the FOP struck again with an attack on the Oakland School system for a web site called “Urban Dreams,” which consisted of course material posted by teachers, and included one curriculum that compared the suppression of M.L. King’s last year of antiwar and other radical commentaries with the suppression of Mumia Abu-Jamal’s writings. Fox News snapped to attention with an on-air denunciation of the Oakland School Board, which was valiantly opposed by Johanna Fernandez of Educators for Mumia (EMAJ) in a Fox interview. Next, the School Board itself snapped to attention and took down the entire site (containing much course material from numerous teachers). Oakland teachers continue the struggle to reverse this police-censorship of the schools.
At bottom, these attacks on Mumia are an attempt to shore-up the fragile facade of the whole criminal “justice” system, which uses frame-ups, mass incarceration, militarization of police, and outright murder of Black and Latino youth as the first line of defense of a racist, capitalist system. Just as it was (and still is) during the rise of the labor movement, these attacks are directed against the masses—all of whom are potential suspects and revolutionaries.
The truth that unravels the lies
Today, FOP, media outlets like Fox News, and politicians of both capitalist parties are desperate to rescue the system from the bad publicity of police murder of young Black and Latino males, such as Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, Andy Lopez in Santa Rosa, CA, and so many others. But, tagged from the beginning as a revolutionary danger to the system, Mumia Abu-Jamal stands for all these victims as a conscious and vocal survivor of every lie and injustice that could be thrown at him. To us, Mumia is a symbol of the truth that unravels all their lies.
The growing police state in the U.S. is an essential part of an inherently oppressive and exploitative capitalist system, which is now increasingly on edge about its own survival. Officially sanctioned police review boards, petitioning the Justice Department for redress of grievances, and other reformist measures do not cut it. Working people and the oppressed must fight back with whatever means are available. Photographing police in the act of crimes and abuses has proven useful. The Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal uniquely sees action by the working class—such as the West Coast port shut down by longshore workers to free Mumia in 1999, and the unauthorized teach-in on Mumia and the death penalty held by Oakland teachers in the same year—as the way forward in the struggle to free Mumia, and others like him.
For the most thorough and up-to-date analysis of the fraudulent case against Mumia Abu-Jamal, see Rachel Wolkenstein, “The Issue Is Mumia Abu-Jamal: Innocent and Framed” found at http://www.rachelwolkenstein.net/
1 The Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal
PO Box 16222, Oakland CA 94610, (510) 763-2347