By Leni Reeves
Mumia Abu-Jamal was convicted in 1982 of murdering a Philadelphia police officer. The prosecution was set in motion by a politically motivated desire to silence this fearless conscientious reporter, an advocate of change who was the major challenge to the corrupt vicious Philadelphia Police Department. The prosecution withheld vital evidence, and many witnesses have stated that their testimony was coerced by police threats. The trial was manifestly unfair.
Even in prison, even while on death row, Abu-Jamal has continued to be a courageous insightful revolutionary reporter. His most recent commentary (courtesy of Prison Radio) concerns the May 13, 1985, Philadelphia police attack and bombing of the MOVE headquarters.
Ramona Africa, the only adult survivor of that attack, describes it thusly:
In terms of the bombing, after being attacked the way we were, first with four deluge hoses by the fire department and then tons of tear gas, and then being shot at—the police admit to shooting over 10,000 rounds of bullets at us in the first 90 minutes—there was a lull. You know, it was quiet for a little bit. And then, without any warning at all, two members of the Philadelphia Police Department’s bomb squad got in a Pennsylvania state police helicopter and flew over our home and dropped a satchel containing C4, a powerful military explosive that no municipal police department has. They had to get it from the federal government, from the FBI. And without any announcement or warning or anything, they dropped that bomb on the roof of our home.
The people inside were unable to escape due to massive police gunfire. The fire department was not allowed to begin fighting the fire until more than an hour afterward, and the whole neighborhood burned. Five children and six adults in the house were killed. More than 250 people were left homeless. The following is what Abu-Jamal had to say about the bombing:
May 13 at 30, why should we care what happened on May 13th, 1985? I mean, seriously, that was 30 years ago, a long time ago, way back when. Know what I mean? Most people won’t say that, but they think that. Why, indeed? I’ll tell you why. Because what happened then is a harbinger of what’s happening now all across America. I don’t mean bombing people—not yet, that is. I mean the visceral hatreds and violent contempt once held for MOVE is now visited upon average people, not just radicals and revolutionaries like MOVE. In May 1985, police officials justified the vicious attacks on MOVE children by saying they, too, were combatants. In Ferguson, Missouri, as police and National Guard confronted citizens, guess how cops described them in their own files. “Enemies.” Enemy combatants, anyone? Then look at 12-year-old Tamir Rice of Cleveland. Boys, men, girls, women—it doesn’t matter. When many people stood in silence, or worse, in bitter acquiescence, to the bombing, shooting and carnage of May 13, 1985, upon MOVE, they opened the door to the ugliness of today’s police terrorism from coast to coast. There is a direct line from then to now. May 13, 1985, led to the eerie robocop present. If it had been justly and widely condemned then, there would be no now, no Ferguson, no South Carolina, no Los Angeles, no Baltimore. The barbaric police bombing of May 13, 1985, and the whitewash of the murders of 11 MOVE men, women and children opened a door that still has not been closed. We are today living with those consequences. From imprisoned nation, this is Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Last month, on the evening of May 12, Abu-Jamal was taken from the prison infirmary to a hospital. There are reports that he had a fever and open wounds. He has not received adequate medical care in the recent past. There may be an intention to carry out by medical neglect the execution the state has so desired.
Your voice is needed to call for these basic requirements of decency: 1) that adequate diagnostic testing be done, 2) that Abu-Jamal’s doctor is able to communicate freely and regularly with the prison infirmary physicians who are delivering Abu-Jamal’s medical care, 3) that his doctor has meaningful and regular phone access to Abu-Jamal (there are no phones in the hospital or the infirmary; his calls are limited to 15 minutes and he has limited access to the day room where the phones are) and 4) that Abu-Jamal’s chosen doctor be allowed to conduct an onsite medical examination. (See the sidebar, “Support Mumia Abu- Jamal.”)
It is past time for Mumia to be released from prison.
SUPPORT Mumia Abu-Jamal
Advocate for basic requirements of decency for Mumia Abu-Jamal by contacting the following:
John Kerestes, Superintendent, SCI Mahanoy, 570-773-2158 x8102, 570-783-2008 (fax), 301 Morea Rd., Frackville, PA 17932
Jane Hinman, Public Information Officer, SCI Mahanoy, 570-773- 2158
Pennsylvania’s Governor Office
Tom Wolf, Governor, 717-787- 2500, governor@PA.gov, 508 Main Capitol Building, Harrisburg, PA 17120
Press Secretary, smcnaughto@ pa.govoc.gov, 1920 Technology Pkwy., Mechanicsburg, PA 17050
Susan Bensinger, Deputy Press Secretary, email@example.com
Pennsylvania Department of Corrections
John Wetzel, Secretary of Corrections, 717-728- 4109, 717-728-4178 (fax), firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Susan McNaughton, Press Secretary, 717-728-4025, firstname.lastname@example.org
Leni Reeves is a physician, activist, guitarist and volunteer firefighter. Read about some of her Cuba experiences at www.usmdincuba.blogspot.com, and contact her at email@example.com.