[Ppnews] Screening Mumia - The Suppression of Dissent in America
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Sep 11 12:05:18 EDT 2008
September 11, 2008
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.
Francomes birthday is December 9, 1981 the day
Abu-Jamal was arrested for murdering of a
Philadelphia policeman. Francomes 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 Californias 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-Jamals 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 Philadelphias police union to block a pro-Abu-Jamal program.
Francomes In Prison My Whole Life interviews
include Noam Chomsky, Angela Davis, Mos Def,
Snoop Dog and Alice Walker famed persons whove
endured violations of their First Amendment rights.
This documentary also presents the first film
interview with Abu-Jamals brother, Billy Cook.
The slain officers 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-Jamals innocence inclusive of
crime scene photographs discovered in 2006 that
contradict core elements of the prosecutions
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 officers 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-Jamals 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
whos followed the Abu-Jamal case since 1981.
Washington appears briefly in the In Prison
documentary talking about police brutality in Philadelphia.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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