‘Accelerate our efforts’ to free Mumia

November 19, 2020

By Angela Davis

Angela Davis says ‘Free Mumia’ to Nov. 16 video press conference. Credit: Joe Piette.

Professor Angela Davis, herself once a political prisoner, is a founding member of Critical Resistance, a national organization dedicated to dismantling the prison industrial complex.  On Nov. 16, Davis delivered the following remarks during the virtual press conference “Freedom & Abolition: A critical moment in the fight to free Mumia Abu-Jamal.”

Mumia Abu-Jamal has played such a pivotal role in the processes of popular education that have led us to this critical juncture and what one might call the century-and-a-half-year-old effort to acknowledge the structural and systemic character of racism and to take seriously the demands for abolition. Abolition of the death penalty, of prisons, of the police. And so it is right and just that we should accelerate our efforts, on this new terrain, to finally free our brother-comrade.

Much attention has been focused on Philadelphia recently from the elections, to the police killing of Walter Wallace because he was experiencing a mental health crisis, to the arrest by federal agents of the teacher and community activist Anthony Smith — and we know that barely a week before his arrest, Philadelphia Magazine had applauded Anthony Smith’s community service and his exceptional leadership. And all around the world we have followed the work of Anthony Smith’s organization, the Black Philadelphia Radical Collective, and many of us passionately support the 13 demands they have submitted.

We know also that the City Council in Philadelphia recently offered an apology, an official apology, for the 1985 bombing which killed 11 MOVE members, including five children, and completely destroyed 61 homes.

So I’ve been asked to briefly describe Mumia’s case in the context of the long history of political repression in this country and in the context of the utilization of the criminal legal system to produce pretext for incarcerating people who have chosen to develop radical resistance strategies in relation to racist state violence.

Mumia is a relatively younger member of a generation of Black radical activists and intellectuals who have challenged the structural and systemic character of racism long before this recognition helped to accelerate efforts to reimagine some of our society’s fundamental institutions. Because of our radical stances we were targeted by the state. In many instances the state demonized and railroaded countless numbers of Black radicals, some of us who were freed, but many of whom have been imprisoned for as many as five or six decades.

Mumia was targeted by the Philadelphia police and COINTELPRO, beginning with his membership in the Black Panther Party. His declassified 500-page FBI file shows that the Philadelphia police, in consultation with COINTELPRO, for many years had tried to peg a crime on Mumia. We also know that at least one third of the police involved in his case were jailed after it was discovered that they had systematically tampered with evidence in large numbers of cases across the city of Philadelphia.

COINTELPRO’s role in Mumia’s frameup

I think that few people know that the investigation of the killing of Daniel Faulkner, the policeman whom Mumia is accused of killing, that this investigation was conducted not by the homicide unit of the Philadelphia police department but by its “Civil Defense Unit,” which was the local police arm of [former FBI Director] J. Edgar Hoover’s COINTELPRO.