French Delegates Travel to Philly and Deliver 250,000 Signature Petition For Mumia

November 2, 2002


 

This demonstration started at Philly City Hall and concluded on the steps of Ed Rendell's campaign headquarters just days before he was elected governor.  Ed Rendell was the Philadelphia district attorney when Mumia was prosecuted in 1982 by Rendell's star prosecutor Joseph McGill.  I have included an interview with Pam Africa that I conducted in the months leading up to the election.

 Ramona Africa and Julia Wright embrace at City Hall. 

 Julia Wright is the daughter of the late, famed black writer Richard Wright. The author of such searing indictments of US racism as Native Son and Black Boy, Wright eventually exiled himself and his family to France when US racism became too much. The last straw for Wright was when a three year-old Julia was denied to use of a toilet inside a department store. Julia recounts how she was forced to pee outside and “wet the sidewalk like a dog. But my father was in a rage that took him to Paris with me and my mother.”

Julia founded the French branch of Abu-Jamal's support network in 1995 when he came within ten days of execution. As Wright has continued organizing against the same US racism she experienced as a child, the support for Abu-Jamal in France and throughout the world has only grown. A few of his many international supporters include the Japanese Diet, the European Parliament, and members of both the British & German Parliaments.

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In November, 2002 a delegation of more than 40 French supporters of Abu-Jamal traveled to Philadelphia to hand-deliver a 250,000 signature petition (demanding a new trial) to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania office at City Hall. However, the Supreme Court ultimately rejected the petition on grounds that it was not done on the official form created by the courts.

 More than 40 French supporters line up with their banners.

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After delivering the petitions the 40+ French supporters joined hundreds of local supporters for a march around Center City, Philadelphia.  The demonstration was just days before Ed Rendell was elected Governor.

Pan-African flags in front of Philly City Hall 

Speaking in front of City Hall, Sam Jordan is the author of the Amnesty International report on Abu-Jamal's case.

Julia Wright speaking at City Hall

The crowd departs and begins to circle City Hall

Pam Africa and Julia Wright lead the way around City Hall

Holding giant banner, French youth charge forward.  City Hall is in the background on right, as crowd heads towards Ed Rendell's campaign headquarters.

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Pam Africa Interview on Ed Rendell

Photo taken across the street from Philadelphia City Hall in the months leading up to the election

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As a result of her public support for MOVE following the May 20, 1977, standoff at their Powelton Village home, Pam Africa was attacked and beaten by police on several occasions. One of the reporters that came to her aid was Mumia Abu-Jamal. Shortly afterwards they became friends. Now as a MOVE member and coordinator of the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, she is fighting for his life and freedom.

Hans:  What would you like to say about Ed Rendell, particularly in light of his recent statement on television calling for Mumia’s death?

Pam:  He was lying, saying that he was dealing with all of the information and that he knew Mumia was guilty of murder, but he has yet been able to prove it.

 

During Mumia’s 1982 trail, Ed Rendell was the top District Attorney here in Philadelphia. Mumia had been exposing Ed Rendell through his coverage of the MOVE trail—he had the heat on that whole administration. Mumia was one of several reporters that were successfully getting the word out to the community. They had to get rid of MOVE, get rid of Mumia, to neutralize the black media.

 When the iron fist came down for everybody to shut the fuck up and not say nothing about MOVE, Mumia never stopped. With the injustice so intense, we were out there trying to raise money and Mumia supported us by shaking the jug himself. Mumia could not sit by and watch innocent people being railroaded.

 

 

Today, you’ve got a judge saying he overturned the death sentence when he really didn’t. People have really got to understand the fear that this government had. We forced them into making one of the biggest mother fucking lies ever.

Ramona Africa speaks in front of Rendell's campaign headquarters.  City Hall is in the background, as the French supporter (on Ramona's left) translates her speech into French for the international crowd.

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Because of their fear of this movement, they had to come up with something to counter it. So they said “We’re reversing the sentencing and giving him life.” Yet Mumia still sits there on death row. Nothing has changed. They are masters of illusion. People say: “I saw him. He was carrying his boxes on TV. They said they released him. I know I saw it!” But they were shown the same film from 1995 [the last time that Mumia was in the courtroom, when Ridge signed the death warrant].

 We say to Ed Rendell: “You have been exposed. If you really believe in fairness, give us a fucking post-conviction hearing. Push for it and make it a fucking campaign issue. If you’re saying that Mumia’s guilty, then prove it—because you haven’t been able to do it yet.”

Ramona Africa and others take over the front steps of Rendell's campaign headquarters in Center City Philadelphia.

 

 

 

Ed Rendell was also the Philly DA when the city attacked MOVE headquarters in both 1978 and 1985.  Click here to check out my interview with Ramona Africa in the months leading up to the election where she discusses Ed Rendell's history with the MOVE Family.