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Nationwide Demonstrations For Jamal

by Lois Pearlman

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With Mumia Abu-Jamal's legal avenues all but exhausted, his supporters are taking his case to the public. On December 12, organizers around the U.S. held rallies, marches, and informational events aimed at creating local groups poised to take action if Pennsylvania Governor Thomas Ridge issues a new warrant for Jamal's execution.

"We need to make Mumia's name as well known in the United States as Bart Simpsons,'" said Karen Saari, an activist against police abuse, speaking at an event in Sebastopol, California.

This week supporters and media observers were also outraged about a one-sided report that aired Dec. 8 on ABC's 20/20 news program, which portrayed supporters of Jamal as deluded or foolish.

With the clock ticking away, his lawyers are preparing a new appeal
Jamal's rapidly growing cadre of supporters say he deserves a new trial because his 1981 conviction was based on coercion of witnesses, unconstitutional courtroom proceedings, inadequate counsel and false testimony. But, so far, they have not been able to convince the legal system.

Mumia "We just want a fair trial," said Carol Seligman, a third grade teacher in South San Francisco and co-founder of the San Francisco-based Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal.

At the end of October, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied him a new trial -- although it also allowed the District Attorney to file new arguments against Jamal. His lawyers asked the court to rehear their appeal, but that was denied on November 25.

According to Jeff Mackler of the San Francisco Mobilization, Governor Ridge now has 90 days in which to sign a new execution warrant. If the Governor fails to issue a warrant, under a new Pennsylvania law, an officer of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections could sign one instead.

With the clock ticking away, his lawyers are preparing a new appeal for the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia. If that fails -- as is likely under a 1996 federal law promoted by President Clinton, which prohibits federal courts from reviewing the facts in a case -- they are prepared to go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mackler said the appeals could take anywhere from five months to two years. In preparation for the final showdown, Jamal supporters have organized four regional mobilizations around the country. Each of the four organizations is planning major conferences in late January or early February, plus calling for supporters to standby for emergency rallies if an execution date is set.

Organizers hope to rally one million supporters on April 24, Jamal's birthday. Demonstrations are scheduled for Philadelphia, San Francisco, Washington D.C. and other cities. In Philadelphia, Pamela Africa, coordinator of International Concerned Friends and Family of Mumia Abu-Jamal, said her group is also organizing a run to Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania.

Other plans include raising funds for a full page ad in the Philadelphia News and "stepping up pressure" on the mayor of Philadelphia, Edward G. Rendell.

This month, Africa said, there are also plans to seek the support of the European Parliament, where it is meeting in Strousburg, Germany.

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Albion Monitor December 17, 1998 (

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