[Ppnews] EMAJ Statement on Secret Anti-Mumia Memo

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Jul 26 10:18:32 EDT 2010

From: "Taylor, Mark Lewis" 
<<mailto:mark.taylor at ptsem.edu>mark.taylor at ptsem.edu>


Please find with this email a statement by 
Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal (EMAJ) about the 
recent “secret memo” that appeared among some in 
the anti-death penalty movement, urged 
cultivating ties with law enforcement for an 
advocacy against the death penalty, while 
downplaying the need to stop Mumia’s execution. 
Many anti-death penalty movements in the US have 
roundly denounced this already. This statement 
from EMAJ now has now been affirmed and signed by 
our three coordinators, Tameka Cage, Johanna 
Fernandez and Mark Taylor. It is posted on our 
web site, top and center as “Site News,” 
but for convenience we also include it in the body of this email, below.

It needs stressing that with a new slick 
propaganda movie by Tigre Hill, promoted by the 
FOP and big funders, which comes out in 
September, portraying Mumia as being just “out to 
kill a cop,” we need now more than ever to 
preserve our unity in the abolitionist movement. 
Some good news is that at the same time that this 
movie hatchet job comes out, producers and 
directors supportive of Mumia are producing an 
alternative film, Mumia 101, which presents a 
fresh and nuanced treatment of Mumia’s case and 
struggle. See the attached letter about that 
newest movie, which includes a trailer of the new 
film under production. Then, if you can, support 
that movie with whatever donation you can 
(producers need funds to finish it up on time!) 
and be present on September 21 in Philadelphia to support it.

Keep organizing everyone!

Thanks, Mark Taylor, for EMAJ



have leaked of a secret memo in which some US 
anti-death penalty activists showed reluctance to 
advocate on behalf ofPennyslvania’s death row 
journalist, Mumia Abu-Jamal. The memo was 
entitled, “Involvement of Mumia Abu-Jamal 
Endangers the US Coalition for Abolition of the 
Death Penalty,” It reveals what has been called 
the “throw Mumia under the bus” tendency of the 
larger effort to abolish the death penalty. We have seen this before.

Every once in awhile someone on the allegedly 
liberal left tries to drive a wedge between 
abolitionists of the death penalty generally, and 
those struggling for Abu-Jamal. One of the more 
memorable instances was in 1998 when Marc Cooper, 
a Nation magazine writer, wrote in The New York 
Press about how the movement for Mumia Abu-Jamal 
is “a bane” on the more solid committed folk 
trying to end the US death penalty.

This year’s memo is a special affront, presuming 
that there is some virtue in abolitionist 
movements “cultivating” relations with the 
Fraternal Order of Police [FOP], which long has 
been a vigorous advocate for Mumia’s execution 
and which keeps 
“list” of individuals and organizations that 
support Mumia’s struggle. EMAJ condemns any such 
planning between abolitionist movements and the 
FOP. For anti-death penalty movements to 
cultivate relations to a police union like the 
FOP, which is unabashedly lobbying for Mumia’s 
execution, is at best ineffective, at worst a 
collusion with the forces that keep 
state-sanctioned killing in place in this 
country. Moreover, it overlooks the long history 
of egregious violence and violation, which law 
enforcement in the U.S. has visited upon communities of color in the U.S.

To be sure, police, prosecutors and others of the 
criminal justice establishment have spoken out 
for Mumia and against the death penalty. 
Hampton’s advocacy for Mumia, as Executive 
Director of the National Black Police Association 
(NBPA), is a clear example. As an organization 
NBPA protests the death penalty in all 
circumstances, even when a police officer has 
been murdered. These are the only kinds of voices 
from members of law enforcement that a truly 
anti-death penalty movement should welcome. 
State-sanctioned murder of anyone is an affront 
to an authentic abolitionist movement. 
Abolitionist movements must resist the 
temptations of big money and stand strong against 
the powerful pressures by which law enforcement 
officials today try to co-opt elements of the 
abolitionist movement, seeking to preserve the death penalty for its purposes.

Generally, Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal (EMAJ) 
opposes any division that is created between the 
Mumia movement and the broader effort to abolish 
capital punishment. The struggle for Mumia is one 
with the struggle of the broader abolitionist 
movement. EMAJ published in 1998 an essay by Mark 
Taylor, one of the signers of this statement, 
under the title, 
and the 3400: Why Stopping Mumia’s Execution 
Helps End all Executions in the US.” In this new 
2010 statement, EMAJ vigorously reaffirms the 
unity of the movement for Mumia and of the broader abolitionist movement.
1.      Every one of the some 3200 men and women 
presently on US death row, whatever we think of 
their guilt or innocence, or of the nature of 
their alleged crimes, warrants advocacy and our 
best efforts to prevent their execution. Even 
though various ones of us may need to concentrate 
our advocacy in ways that highlight different 
figures (say, Mumia, or Troy Davis, or Reggie 
Clemons, or any of the many others), this 
concentration of effort on one should not be seen 
as a disparagement of any other death row 
prisoner’s struggle for life and justice.
2.      Mumia’s struggle and his writings (rarely 
about his own case and usually about broader 
political issues) has dramatically personalized 
the issue of the death penalty for especially 
youth in urban communities of color, but also in 
other regions of the U.S. and internationally. 
His story of resistance and political struggle 
has caught the imagination of many and so brought 
new voices into the struggle against the death 
penalty. This was dramatically evident in the 
April 2010 gathering at the EMAJ event at Barnard 
College (Columbia University), where a lecture 
hall was packed out with more than 500 people, 
mostly young people of all backgrounds, to hear 
not only a “phone-in” from Mumia, but also 
discussions by Cornel West, Vijay Prashad, and 
film-maker Jamal Joseph about the importance of Mumia’s case and struggle.
3.      Mumia’s arrest, conviction, and continual 
denial of appeals crystallizes and distills – 
thus makes more readily apparent – the plagues at 
work in maintaining our broken death penalty 
system: racial bias in judges and juror 
selection, inadequate legal counsel, lack of 
funds for investigations for defendants, police 
corruption and prosecutorial misconduct. Thus, 
Mumia’s case can be seen as a kind of primer of 
how the death penalty fails to work justice, and 
on how the larger systems of U.S. mass 
incarceration, policing and prosecutorial 
procedures are broken, dysfunctional, and unjust.
4.      Mumia’s struggle dramatically exhibits 
the agency of death row prisoners themselves in 
waging their struggle. Mumia’s death row cell in 
the prison system is an organizing site within 
the system. However necessary our efforts are 
from “the outside,” Mumia’s trenchant voice 
inside death row confirms that the abolitionist 
movement is not just a condescending or 
paternalistic act of concern of outsiders “for,” 
or “for the sake of,” those on death row. 
Recognizing Mumia is one way to recognize the 
agency of those in struggle on death row. His 
voice, as a voice within, is crucial to our 
abolitionist movement’s authenticity.
5.       Mumia’s mode of struggle enables those 
in the abolitionist movement to keep the struggle 
against the US death penalty as part of a larger 
political struggle, in which other issues are 
always at play in our struggle to end capital 
punishment. We will not abolish the death 
penalty, and keep it abolished, if we cannot 
articulate the broader issues of power - class 
domination, environmental destruction, 
transnational globalization, torture at home and 
abroad, militarist imperialism, and 
neocolonialism – all being issues that Abu-Jamal 
has addressed in relation to capital punishment and mass incarceration.
6.      Although there is a temptation in some 
quarters to make of Mumia an icon, just a “cool 
guy” mentioned in the Boondocks cartoon strip, 
Hip Hop magazines, rock concerts, and in films of 
different sorts – the lifting of Mumia’s struggle 
to the level of a media spectacle can be an 
advantage to the abolitionist movement. It 
enables us to engage the media, not only with 
Mumia’s struggle but also with broader efforts to 
end the death penalty, block police brutality, 
and expose the corruptions of racialized power at 
every level. One of the reasons political 
officials of the establishment are so keenly 
opposed to Mumia is precisely because he has this 
capacity to ignite media attention, nationally 
and internationally. We should welcome this and use it.
7.      Finally, the Mumia movement positions 
resistance to the death penalty around the U.S. 
national shrine center in Philadelphia. This 
places debate about capital punishment (the 
state-sanctioned murder of citizens) in a city 
that is the very symbolic heart of Americans’ 
self-understanding of their nation and its 
history. The Mumia movement – those of us in it 
as well as Mumia’s recordings and writings – is 
not silent about the general problem of 
state-sanctioned killing as part of the very 
meaning of “America” and its history. The 
persistence of the death penalty is, at least in 
part, due to the nation’s dependence on policies 
of war and killing, policies that date from the 
devastation of Indian peoples and slave 
populations, to the colonization of, and war 
against, Asian, Arab, African and Latin American 
countries, up to the often deadly and 
disheartening discrimination meted out against 
immigrants from these lands in our midst today.

The focus of Mumia’s struggle in Philadelphia, 
then, dramatizes how central the commitment to 
state-sanctioned killing is to the forging and 
maintenance of this nation. It has always been 
appropriate, then, that the festivals of July 4th 
celebration in Philadelphia are routinely matched 
by a smaller and fledgling, but vigorous, 
counter-march for Mumia and as critique of every 
death-dealing policy of the U.S. - whether 
applied in the killing fields of indigenous 
peoples lands, in the desserts of Iraq, or the 
mountainous ravines of the Afghan/Pakistani border.

Let there be no more division between the 
advocates of a general abolition of the death 
penalty, and the advocates in the movement for 
Abu-Jamal. As Educators, in Pennsylvania, across 
the U.S. and the world, we reassert our firm 
opposition to the death penalty in the U.S., and 
thus especially to the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal.

 From the Coordinators of Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal:

  Tameka Cage     Johanna Fernandez     Mark Lewis Taylor

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

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