More than a dozen supporters of Mumia Abu-Jamal rallied outside the Philadelphia district attorney’s office Friday afternoon, simultaneously criticizing top prosecutor Larry Krasner and calling on him not to challenge the court decision giving Abu-Jamal a long-shot chance at freedom.
Abu-Jamal, a former reporter and activist, has spent more than three decades in prison for the 1981 shooting death of police Officer Daniel Faulkner. He has tried and failed on appeal to overturn his guilty verdict, which his supporters say was racially motivated. Abu-Jamal once belonged to the Black Panther Party and was affiliated with MOVE, the radical, back to nature group which lived in the Powelton and West Philadelphia neighborhoods in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Standing next to a life-sized portrait of Abu-Jamal Friday, organizer Pam Africa, who runs the International Concerned Friends and Family of Mumia Abu-Jamal, said the progressive Philadelphia district attorney has not done enough to help Abu-Jamal’s case.
Krasner’s “done a lot of things that he’s supposed to do, we’re not denying that. But when it came to Mumia, he was the same dishonest m*****f***** that the rest of them was,” she said, calling on Krasner to let Abu-Jamal’s new opportunity for an appeal to proceed.
Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Leon Tucker ruled Thursday that one of Abu-Jamal’s appeal attempts was marred by the appearance of bias on the part of former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Ronald Castille. Tucker, who did not address Abu-Jamal’s guilt or innocence, called the 64-year-old’s story “one of the most polarizing criminal cases in Philadelphia history, the nation, and, perhaps, worldwide.”
Tucker’s decision allows Abu-Jamal to try arguing that appeal again. A spokesman for Krasner’s office said the district attorney is still reviewing the judge’s decision and whether it will take action.
Members of Philly for REAL Justice, the Black is Back Coalition, and Mobilization for Mumia stood in the rain for more than an hour, at one point briefly blocking traffic by the southeastern corner of City Hall, to try to sway the public official. Police officers on bikes cleared the way for the demonstration.
Chants of “Free Mumia” were mixed with calls for black community control of the police and criticism of city elected officials, including Krasner and Mayor Jim Kenney.
“We are saying although Mumia Abu-Jamal did not [kill Faulkner], he should have done it,” said Diop Olugbala with Black is Back Coalition. “Oppressed people have a right and a responsibility to do whatever is necessary to free ourselves from the yoke of colonial oppression.”
Abu-Jamal has 30 days to file appeal paperwork with the Pennsylvania Superior Court. He is currently incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Mahanoy in Schuylkill County.
Additional rallies are planned for Jan. 5 and to coincide with Abu-Jamal’s birthday on April 24.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to more accurately reflect the early philosophy of the group, MOVE.