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Report on January 12 Press Conference in Washington, D.C.
On Wednesday, January 12, a press conference was held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. to announce the efforts of the International Committee to Save the Life of Mumia Abu-Jamal to push for a new and fair trial for Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Members of parliaments and legislative bodies from several countries, joined by union leaders and human rights activists, assembled in Washington, D.C. to ask President Clinton to stop the threatened execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal and to instruct the Justice Department to conduct an investigation into the violation of Mumia Abu-Jamal's civil and constitutional rights. Mumia Abu-Jamal is an African American radio journalist who has been on death row in a Pennsylvania prison for 18 years following his 1982 conviction for killing a police officer.
Following the press conference, the delegation marched to the White House and later to the Justice Department. [See official report-back >from the delegation following their one-hour meeting on the afternoon of January 12 at the Justice Department.]
The press conference was chaired by international delegation coordinator Baldemar Velasquez, president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (AFL-CIO) and vice president of the Ohio AFL-CIO.
The following people addressed the press conference in the name of the entire international delegation.
MANUEL CAMARA -- Spain; Member of the Senate and Trade Unionist
OSSIE DAVIS -- Actor; Director; Author; Political Activist
DANIEL GLUCKSTEIN -- France; Coordinator, International Liaison Committee for a Workers International
ROXANNE GREGORY -- General Counsel, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, representing Martin Luther King III and the Reverend Randall Osborne. (Sister Gregory read a statement from Martin Luther King III, who was unable to stay in Washington for the press conference.)
DICK GREGORY - Human rights activist
SAM JORDAN -- Director, Program to Abolish the Death Penalty, Amnesty International USA
LINDSAY McLAUGHLIN -- Legislative Representative, International Longshore and Warehouse Union
MARTHA OSAMOR -- Great Britain; Coordinator, People of Color Coalition, Trade Union Congress
LOTHAR OTT -- A trade union official from the GEW teachers' union in Germany
ROMANCE - A university student from France, on behalf of hundreds of committees formed throughout Europe to demand a new trial for Mumia Abu-Jamal.
STEVE WISER - A member of Bruderhof and a close associate of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who introducted a taped message to the press conference >from Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Following are the transcriptions of a few of the remarks presented at
the press conference. Included below are the statements by Martin
Luther King, III; Mumia Abu-Jamal (presented by audio tape from a
phone interview with Steve Wiser); Daniel Gluckstein, and Romance (a
university student from France). These are the statements that were
available in print at the time of the press conference. The other
remarks are in the process of being transcribed and will be available
shortly. If you are interested in the complete report from the press
conference, please contact us at
STATEMENT BY MARTIN LUTHER KING III
(Note: Following are the remarks by Martin Luther King, III, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, to the press conference on January 12 in Washington, D.C., organized by the International Committee to Save the Life of Mumia Abu-Jamal. Brother Martin Luther King III was unable to remain in Washington D.C. for the press conference. His statement was read by Roxanne Gregory, general counsel for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.)
Conscience compels me to unite with Nelson Mandela, Catholic Bishop Thomas Gumbelton, elected representatives of the European Parliament, the Congressional Black Caucus, Amnesty International, Harry Belafonte, Paul Newman, Ossie Davis, Danny Glover, Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu, and millions of others around the globe to fight for the life of our brother in "the struggle," Mumia Abu-Jamal.
SCLC's commitment to justice for Mumia Abu-Jamal, dates back over a decade. We thank God for the energy of Ralph Schoenman, our board member Dick Gregory, and others, who have made today's international witness a reality.
First of all, at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference we are unequivocally opposed to capital punishment. The conductors of the evil system of injustice made Abu-Jamal a political prisoner and now they have planned his execution. As "consciousness-raising members" of the global society, we cannot afford to sit back and let an innocent man die.
The world must know that the judge purposely withheld "crucial evidence" from Abu-Jamal's case. Experts say this evidence alone could have brought an acquittal. We can no longer afford to allow bias in the criminal justice system to continue.
We must stand by Abu-Jamal's side just as we stood by the sides of Nelson Mandela, Angela Davis, Ben Chavis, and Joann Little. I do not believe it is incidental that I find myself protesting for the life of this innocent man, one month after my family and I received the verdict from a multicultural jury that said my father's assassination was part of a conspiracy. Martin Luther King, Jr. was brutally murdered because he spoke out against social injustices.
Today, almost thirty-three years after he was killed, we must unite together in the name of justice to stop the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a young man who was respected in the community for reporting stories about economic and social injustices. My family was able to find out who killed my father because my brother, Dexter never gave up. He persevered in his search for the truth and our family let our faith sustain us until we found out who killed my father.
We must come together as a family in the spirit of my father who said, "the arc of the universe is long but is bent towards justice," and never give up until we save the life of our brother, Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Americans should know that the world is watching to see if she will do the right thing. Under the system of government dictated by our Constitution, the judicial system is the final repository of public power. It should be held inviolate from racism and other prejudices, which plague our society. We demand that all those with the power to intervene do so now in the name of justice -- do so now in the name of all that America holds, claims to hold, true and fair -- do so now in the name of humanity --do so now, in the name of all those who have already died to force America to live up to its motto of liberty and justice for all!
STATEMENT BY MUMIA ABU-JAMAL
(Note: The following recorded message was sent by Mumia Abu-Jamal to the January 12 press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The message was introduced by Steve Wiser, a close associate of Mumia, who recorded the taped message. Wiser stood holding a photo of Mumia as the recorded message was played to the packed audience at the press conference.)
A VIEW FROM DEATH ROW
Welcome international guests, and other human rights activists here assembled; I welcome you all: Ona Move!
Many are unfamiliar with the reality of death row, for the corporationist press paints a picture of death row as the abode of the worst of the worst, while a truer picture is of those who are the poorest of the poor, or even the weakest of the weak. How so, you ask?
Well, look: Of all the kinds of killings that people do, what can be more horrific than murder for hire? In Philadelphia alone, dozens of people have been slain in the streets as local Mafia wars raged over a decade. Which leads to another question: How many Mafia hit-men are on Pennsylvania's Death Row? The answer?: Zero. Not one.
How can this be, you ask, and the answer is simple. Real Mafia guys are able to afford the best lawyers that money can buy, while the poor schmuck is left with court-appointed lawyers, hardly the best in the craft. So, guess who goes to death row? Death row is the prerogative of the poor. This was shown by a 1992 article in the Philadelphia Inquirer which reported on capital cases, poor people, "represented by ward leaders, ward committeemen, failed politicians, the sons of judges and party leaders, and contributors to the judge's election campaign." (See Fredric N. Tulsky, "Big-time Trials; Small Time Defenses," Philadelphia Inquirer, Sept. 14, 1992, at A1, A8.) What emerges is the politics of death, that the well-to-do can afford to escape, and where one's poverty is the definitive aggravating circumstance.
I have written previously of the Fred Thomas case; of the diabetic grandfather whose witness in his defense was run out of court by cops later convicted in the infamous 39th District corruption scandal; of Jimmy Dennis, whose alibi defense was tossed aside by the courts; innocent men whose real offense was not being able to afford adequate defense lawyers---and I assure you, they are not alone.
Death Row is not just a poor place, but a predominantly black place, with most from Philadelphia. Again, we see the politics of death; of prosecutors and judges who seek political advancement on the basis of their fierce allegiance to the death penalty. These same actors in the containment system have treated the Batson case as a joke. What the case claims, and what the courts actually do, are two very different things.
Perhaps this group will begin the process of change. I, we, certainly hope so.
Thank you! Ona Move! Mumia Abu-Jamal, #AM 8335 175 Progress Drive Waynesburg PA 15370
12 January 2000
STATEMENT BY DANIEL GLUCKSTEIN
The decision to form this International Committee to Save the Life of Mumia Abu-Jamal was taken at a public rally held in Paris last October 15 that gathered thousands of people. This rally was organized to build support for the Open World Conference in Defense of Trade Union Independence and Democratic Rights (OWC), which will be held in San Francisco next February 11-14.
Our positions are simple and clear: We believe there can be no defense of working people anywhere in the world without the defense of independent trade unions. There can be no defense of working people throughout the world without the defense of any and all democratic rights. And there can be no defense of working people throughout the world without a common struggle against all forms of exploitation and oppression - against all forms of racism and injustice.
And that is why we decided to come together in this committee. Our aim was to call on the international labor movement, on the trade unions, and on political parties and activists the world over to support an Open Letter to President Clinton with the following message: "You, President Clinton, have the power to direct Attorney General Janet Reno to open an investigation into the violation of Mumia Abu-Jamal's civil and constitutional rights - an investigation that would pave the way for a new and fair trial!"
The response to the Open Letter that was issued last October 15 has been overwhelming, as others have stated here today. To date we have gathered close to 1 million signatures in more than 70 countries in support of this Open Letter to Bill Clinon. The signatories include members of parliament as well as political and trade union leaders and activists.
In my country alone -- that is, France - we gathered more than 100,000 signatures on this Open Letter. Representatives of our committee in France were received officially by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They were told that the French government supports our efforts on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
The delegation today marks an important step. Let me tell you that whatever the outcome of our meetings today [at the White House and/or Justice Department] we are committed to expanding the mobilizations the world over until we achieve the victory of justice and democracy, which for us means a new and fair trial - and freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal.
STATEMENT FROM ROMANCE (a university student from France)
I represent thousands of youth who organized committees across France to demand a new trial for Mumia, and who have gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures in the high school and universities in support of the Open Letter to Bill Clinton.
My airplane ticket, like that of my sister from Martinique, was paid for by these thousands of youth, many of whom gave 1 or 2 francs so that we could be here today.
I want to tell you briefly about what's happening in other countries. I just received an email from Togo, which states:
"Even though the government has closed the university following a protracted student strike, the students in Lome have gathered tens of thousands of signatures and contacted the radio stations and media. They have decided to organize today, January 12, a student delegation to the U.S. Embassy."
Indeed, the youth movement in support of Mumia is expanding. On December 2 in Berlin, thousands of youth took to the streets in support of Mumia. Last April 24, in Philadelphia and San Francisco, tens of thousands of people - primarily youth - mobilized to demand a new trial and to stop the execution.
Youth throughout the world identify with Mumia and what he stands for. And young people know that Clinton can do something to save Mumia.
But if U.S. authorities were to ignore our appeal, if nothing were done to open the way for a new trial, you should know that we will redouble our efforts and broaden our protests. We will present report-backs from this delegation on the high school and university campuses of France and the world over.
OWC CAMPAIGN NEWS - distributed by the Open World Conference in Defense of Trade Union Independence & Democratic Rights
c/o S.F. Labor Council, 1188 Franklin St., #203, San Francisco, CA 94109.
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