[Ppnews] Screening Mumia - The Suppression of Dissent in America

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Sep 11 12:05:18 EDT 2008


http://www.counterpunch.org/washington09112008.html

September 11, 2008


Screening Mumia


The Suppression of Dissent in America

By LINN WASHINGTON, Jr.

In presenting a compelling examination of the 
plight of death row journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal 
the documentary “In Prison My Whole Life” also 
probes one of the deeper contradictions of 
America: persistent suppression of dissent.

For a nation that extols the provisions of the 
First Amendment, politicians and police have 
histories of running roughshod over the rights of 
citizens to exercise their constitutional 
freedoms of speech, assembly and presenting grievances to government.

The recent actions against peaceful demonstrators 
and non-mainstream journalists by federal and 
local law enforcement personnel during the 
Republican National Convention in St Paul, 
Minnesota is yet another example of suppression of dissent.

Amnesty International is among the organizations 
condemning the assaults and arrests at the 
Republican Convention, terming that use of force and mass arrests excessive.

Amnesty International has officially endorsed “In 
Prison My Whole Life” – the first time this 
respected human rights organization ever placed its imprimatur on a film.

This well received documentary that premiered 
simultaneously last October 25th at the London 
and Rome Film Festivals focuses on the journey of 
one young man – William Francome – to discover 
more about the death row inmate arrested on the day he was born.

Francome’s birthday is December 9, 1981 – the day 
Abu-Jamal was arrested for murdering of a 
Philadelphia policeman. Francome’s American-born 
mother followed the Abu-Jamal case, reminding her 
son on each of his birthdays about the man 
languishing on death-row for a conviction based 
on what the AI report determined was a grossly unfair trial.

The film follows Francome across America from New 
York City to California’s Bay Area in his journey 
to discover more about the Abu-Jamal case and 
related issues like racism, class prejudice and suppression of dissent.

“In Prison My Whole Life” will have two screening 
in New York City at the Urbanworld Film Festival 
– on Thursday 9/11 and Saturday 9/13. 
Additionally, a screening is set for 9/26 at the 
CR10 Conference in Oakland, California.

The only previous US screening of this 
documentary occurred this past January during the Sundance Film Festival.

In 2000, Amnesty International authored the 
comprehensive yet concise report on the Abu-Jamal 
case that presented a unique examination of 
unethical and suspect conduct by the Pa Supreme 
Court in this controversial case – newsworthy 
material that the US news media buried.

Only two American daily newspapers carried 
articles on that news-laden AI report according 
to the NEXUS newspaper database and both of those 
articles were ‘news briefs.’ The news brief on 
the AI report published by the Philadelphia 
Inquirer in Abu-Jamal’s hometown was the fifth of 
six items in the B Section, listed below 
reporting on two non-fatal shootings, a small 
nightclub fire and a proposal to ban cell phone use while driving.

The Abu-Jamal case is fraught with suppression of dissent.

Incidents of suppression include the well 
publicized 1994 action by police and politicians 
forcing NPR to cancel airing prison commentaries 
by the award-winning journalist, the little known 
2000 federal imprisonment of a leading Abu-Jamal 
activist for speaking at an anti-death penalty 
rally during the GOP national convention held 
that year in Philadelphia and 2007 strong-arming 
by Philadelphia’s police union to block a pro-Abu-Jamal program.

Francome’s “In Prison My Whole Life” interviews 
include Noam Chomsky, Angela Davis, Mos Def, 
Snoop Dog and Alice Walker – famed persons who’ve 
endured violations of their First Amendment rights.

This documentary also presents the first film 
interview with Abu-Jamal’s brother, Billy Cook. 
The slain officer’s beating of Cook during a 
traffic stop allegedly triggered the shooting. 
Cook shows a head scar he still carries from that 
beating. Cook also confirms the presence of his 
close friend long suspected by some as the person who fatally shot the officer.

Producers for the documentary are acclaimed 
British actor Colin Firth and his wife Livia 
Giuggioli who enlisted renowned director Marc Evans.

Producer Livia Giuggioli, during a recent 
interview with Hans Bennett, said intense 
passions displayed by advocates and enemies of 
Abu-Jamal is one of the things that interested 
them about pursuing this project.

“This is what really fascinated us all when we 
started to approach the subject and research,” 
said Giuggioli who lives in London.

“If you detach everything from this “figure” you 
just find a man who has been a victim of politics 
more than anything else,” Giuggioli noted echoing 
a conclusion of the 2000 AI report that politics 
had polluted judicial rulings in the Abu-Jamal case.

“In Prison” presents extraordinary evidence 
pointing to Abu-Jamal’s innocence inclusive of 
crime scene photographs discovered in 2006 that 
contradict core elements of the prosecution’s 
case against the man whose written five books while on death row.

The photos, for example, show no bullet marks in 
the sidewalk where prosecutors declared Abu-Jamal 
shot into the sidewalk around the fallen officer 
three times before shooting him once in the face. 
The photos show no cab behind the officer’s squad 
car where prosecutors told jurors a cab driver 
observed the murder. Additionally, the photos 
show police tampering with evidence at the crime scene.

A consultant for the documentary, German 
professor Dr. Michael Schiffmann, located these 
photos shot by a Philadelphia news photographer 
who arrived at the shooting scene minutes after the crime.

Schiffmann published the 2006 book “Race Against 
Death” one of the two most thorough examinations 
of the Abu-Jamal case. The other book is “Killing 
Time” by Philadelphia-area investigative reporter 
Dave Lindorff. Both Schiffmann and Lindorff have 
“In Prison” appearances, walking Francome through 
various aspects of the Abu-Jamal case in Philadelphia.

“Hopefully the film will help people to think and 
realize that maybe there is more to the story,” 
Giuggioli said. “Until there is a proper new 
trial – Mumia is just a man who has been sitting 
in solitary confinement for 27-years and it is a disgrace.”

The Abu-Jamal case is presently heading for an 
appeal to the US Supreme Court after the federal 
Third Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this year 
rejected a request for a new hearing, principally 
on the issue of racial discrimination during the 
selection of the jury at Abu-Jamal’s 1982 trial.

That Third Circuit ruling created new standards 
for jury discrimination appeals that are more 
stringent than standards established by the US 
Supreme Court. That 2000 Amnesty International 
report faulted courts for improperly creating new 
legal standards to deny justice to Abu-Jamal.

Linn Washington Jr. is a Philadelphia journalist 
who’s followed the Abu-Jamal case since 1981. 
Washington appears briefly in the “In Prison” 
documentary talking about police brutality in Philadelphia.




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