(From February 16 to March 16, trade unions and people’s movements across the world are organizing a campaign to demand the release of US political prisoner, militant and journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, who has been in prison for over 41 years. The global action comes at a time when his defense is mounting a fresh attempt to ensure his release as the evidence against him has been time and again exposed as flawed. Ahead of this action, noted political activist and academic Angela Davis, who was a political prisoner herself, wrote a letter to Irvin Jim, General Secretary of National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, about the bonds of solidarity that hold together this global campaign. We bring you excerpts from the letter)
Dear Comrade Jim,
As I write you today on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal, I remember the powerful letter you wrote in 2016 to Governor Wolf of Pennsylvania, when you emphasized similarities between the South African apartheid government’s treatment of its political prisoners and the conditions of prisoners in Pennsylvania. You wrote, “The refusal of healthcare reminds us of the conditions we were put in under Apartheid prisons where sick detainees were allowed to die in very deplorable lonely conditions in solitary as part of the punishment for their role in the struggle.”
Your compelling statement was instrumental in the prison authority’s decision to finally give Mumia life-saving medication. This action quite literally saved his life. Today we need to take advantage of the fact that we have the best chance in a very long time to actually achieve his freedom. On December 16th of last year, a new judge ruled that the prosecution must turn over its entire file – up to 200 boxes of materials – to the defense. Previously, new exculpatory evidence was discovered among materials in six boxes of files, never seen by the defense and mysteriously “found” on premises occupied by the District Attorney. This discovery of exculpatory evidence decades after the initial arrest provides further confirmation of our contention that Mumia is innocent of the charges for which he is being held. One piece of evidence is a hand-written note by the star witness for the prosecution demanding money in exchange for his (obviously perjured) testimony.
As was the case under apartheid, there is no justice for those willing to call for an end to racism and capitalism–what we now refer to as racial capitalism. There is no justice for those who militantly defend the working class. The judge in Mumia’s case is expected to issue her ruling sometime between February 16 and March 16. That is why we are asking trade unions around the world to organize protests in front of U.S. Embassies demanding Mumia’s freedom. ILWU Local 10 will be shutting down the Ports of Oakland and San Francisco that day to demand Mumia’s immediate release. Teachers in the San Francisco Bay Area are organizing teaching days on his case during that time. This will occur half-way through our observation of Black History Month in the US,
As I write this letter, we are celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King on the national holiday marking his birthday and I am remembering that a few months before he was assassinated, Dr. King addressed the membership of ILWU Local 10 and was given an honorary membership in the union.
I am proud to say that over a half-century later, in the aftermath of the George Floyd police murder and the massive protest by longshore workers, I too, was made an honorary member by the union.
In accepting that great honor, I also thanked the ILWU Local 10 for organizing one of the first rallies in 1972, to “Free Angela Davis.” As a consequence of the many protests organized around the world we were able to prevail over the forces of racial capitalism. Huey Newton, the leader of the Black Panther Party was also eventually freed thanks to similar mobilizations.
Both the ILWU Local 10 and NUMSA have stood together many times in defense of justice–whether in South Africa, the US, or elsewhere in the world.
Yours in solidarity