Hundreds of Abu-Jamal supporters gather in Philadelphia

Mumia Abu-Jamal is drawing hundreds of supporters to Philadelphia. The gathering follows Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams’ announcement that he will not make another effort to get the death penalty for Abu-Jamal, who is serving a life term for the 1981 killing of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner.

Abu-Jamal’s backers are coming from across the country for a weekend of events, including a gathering at the National Constitution Center Friday.

Vijay Prashad, who teaches at Trinity College in Connecticut, is coming to speak about the case and the judicial system that has kept Abu-Jamal behind bars.

“At the International Criminal Court, a life sentence is 25 years,” Prashad said. “It’s very rare for a war criminal or somebody who’s perpetuated genocide to be in prison over 25 years and we have incarcerated a man accused of killing one person, for over 30 years. So there is a problem with the very procedure, despite the question of guilt or innocence.”

For Prashad, the Abu-Jamal case is part of a larger problem:

“We seem to believe there is therapy in warehousing large numbers of people into prisons where there’s very little in general for them to do,” Prashad said. “This is a discussion not only about one person. It is a discussion about that person, but that person stands in, as it were, for a major systemic problem.”

One of hundreds making the trip to Philadelphia is 79-year-old Iyaluua Ferguson, who lives near Raleigh, N.C.

“We’re very much warriors for human rights and the liberation of black people. I am here just to be part of the Mumia event because we all are very concerned about Mumia and about Mumia’s situation,” she said.

Sue Kelly made the trip from North Carolina as well.

“I’ve been coming up to Philadelphia to work on Mumia’s case probably for close to 20 years. I’m here because I believe in the deepest part of my heart that Mumia is innocent,” Kelly said. “He deserves a new trial, and what he really deserves is to be set free after 30 years.”

Kelly said the recent execution of Troy Davis, the Georgia man convicted of killing an off-duty police officer, has gotten more people interested in the Abu-Jamal case. In the Davis case, there were widespread public doubts about his guilt.

Kelly said she’s just beginning to spread the word about Abu-Jamal’s case.

“I find in North Carolina … people do know about Troy Davis’ case–there’s a lot of anger and outrage at that–and once they are informed about Mumia, they can identify, they connect Mumia and Troy Davis as cases that have a similar miscarriage of justice,” Kelly said.

Friday marks the 30th anniversary of the fatal shooting of Faulkner.

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