On Friday, March 10, members of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) and the Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party (SRWP), marched to the US embassy in Pretoria to demand freedom for revolutionary, militant journalist, and political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal.
NUMSA and SRWP marching to the U.S Embassy to demand that Mumia must be set free! #FreeMumiaAbuJamal #ForTheLoveofTheWorkingClass
— NUMSA (@Numsa_Media) March 10, 2023
Friday’s action was organized as part of an ongoing month-long global solidarity campaign, involving a host of organizations, including the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10, for his release.
68-year-old Abu-Jamal has been incarcerated for over 40 years, after being convicted for the killing of a police officer, Daniel Faulkner, in the city of Philadelphia in 1981.
A former Black Panther, Abu-Jamal had been violently targeted and surveilled by state forces since he was a young teenager. His trial and subsequent sentencing in 1982 were marked by severe official misconduct, corruption, and blatant racism, with the original presiding trial Judge Albert Sabo declaring in the first week of Abu-Jamal’s trial that he was going to “help them fry the [racist slur]”.
Abu-Jamal has since been incarcerated under inhumane conditions, including severe medical neglect.
“The struggle for the civil rights movement in the 1960s captured the imagination of the world. Figures like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Junior, and Malcolm X became global icons— they fought and died for human justice,” NUMSA National Spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said in a speech outside the US embassy.
“One would have thought that today the brutal system of oppression would have withered away and the struggle for humanity and justice would prevail…To our disappointment as peace loving South Africans, a Black man in America is always guilty in the eyes of the police.”
NUMSA added that officials from the embassy had refused to come out to receive a letter from the union, following which some of its members were escorted inside by “heavy police personnel.”
— Irvin Jim (@IrvinJimSA) March 10, 2023
After Abu-Jamal had already spent some 36 years in prison, in 2018, six boxes of evidence “discovered” in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office revealed how the prosecution had bribed witnesses, including the main witness, Robert Chobert, who had claimed to have seen Abu-Jamal shoot Faulkner. There were also notes written by the prosecutor, Joseph McGill, tracking the race of prospective jurors in an attempt to exclude Black people from the jury.
The issue of a race-based jury selection had been raised by Abu-Jamal’s defense in a 1995 Post-Conviction Relief Application, which was dismissed by Judge Sabo. Following the discovery of the six boxes of withheld evidence, Abu-Jamal’s defense filed a petition for a new trial.
However, on October 26, 2022, Judge Lucretia Clemons of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas issued a notice of intent to dismiss the petition without a hearing. Finally on December 16, Judge Clemons ordered the prosecution to turn over all evidence and documents in the case, up to 200 boxes in total, to Abu-Jamal’s defense, while issuing a stay on her “intent to dismiss” notice.
Judge Clemons stated that she would make a final ruling on the petition for a new trial within 60–90 days. With the deadline set to expire on March 16, organizations including the ILWU Local 10 and NUMSA have ramped up their efforts to demand Abu-Jamal’s freedom.
“All power: to the people! All power: to the working class!” NUMSA members chanted during Friday’s protest.