[Pnews] The persecution of Mumia Abu-Jamal, MOVE members and all the radicals of four decades ago is not ancient history

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue May 16 12:53:40 EDT 2017


  Trump Is the Symptom, Not the Disease | By Chris Hedges

*The persecution of Mumia Abu-Jamal, MOVE members and all the radicals 
of four decades ago is not ancient history. It is the genesis of the 
present. *

by Chris Hedges - May 15, 2017

Forget the firing of James Comey. Forget the paralysis in Congress. 
Forget the idiocy of a press that covers our descent into tyranny as if 
it were a sports contest between corporate Republicans and corporate 
Democrats or a reality show starring our maniacal president and the 
idiots that surround him. Forget the noise. The crisis we face is not 
embodied in the public images of the politicians that run our 
dysfunctional government. The crisis we face is the result of a 
four-decade-long, slow-motion corporate coup that has rendered the 
citizen impotent, left us without any authentic democratic institutions 
and allowed corporate and military power to become omnipotent. This 
crisis has spawned a corrupt electoral system of legalized bribery and 
empowered those public figures that master the arts of entertainment and 
artifice. And if we do not overthrow the neoliberal 
<http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/8/16/1007496/->, corporate forces 
that have destroyed our democracy we will continue to vomit up more 
monstrosities as dangerous as Donald Trump. Trump is the symptom, not 
the disease.

Our descent into despotism began with the pardoning of Richard Nixon 
all of whose impeachable crimes are now legal, and the extrajudicial 
assault, including targeted assassinations and imprisonment, carried out 
on dissidents and radicals, especially black radicals. It began with the 
creation of corporate-funded foundations and organizations that took 
control of the press, the courts, the universities, scientific research 
and the two major political parties. It began with empowering 
militarized police to kill unarmed citizens and the spread of our 
horrendous system of mass incarceration and the death penalty. It began 
with the stripping away of our most basic constitutional rights—privacy, 
due process, habeas corpus, fair elections and dissent. It began when 
big money was employed by political operatives such as Roger Stone, a 
close Trump adviser, to create negative political advertisements and 
false narratives to deceive the public, turning political debate into 
burlesque. On all these fronts we have lost. We are trapped like rats in 
a cage. A narcissist and imbecile may be turning the electric shocks on 
and off, but the problem is the corporate state, and unless we dismantle 
that, we are doomed.

“What’s necessary for the state is the illusion of normality, of 
regularity,” America’s best-known political prisoner, Mumia Abu-Jamal, 
told me 
last week by phone from the prison where he is incarcerated in 
Frackville, Pa. “… In Rome, what the emperors needed was bread and 
circuses. In America, what we need is ‘Housewives of Atlanta.’ We need 
sports. The moral stories of good cops and evil people. Because you have 
that …. there is no critical thinking in America during this period. You 
have emotion [only]. When I look at someone who is demonized, I can do 
anything [to him or her]. I can do anything. That’s how the state works, 
by demonizing people and putting them in places where they’re virtually 

“Here’s the reality,” he went on. “America has never come to grips with 
what a lot of scholars and thinkers call the Original Sin. That’s 
because it never stopped happening. This country brags about being 
founded on freedom. It was founded on slavery. It was founded on 
holocaust. It was founded on genocide. After slavery ended, after the 
Constitution was rewritten and amended, we have the Reconstruction 
amendments, the 13th <https://www.google.com/#q=13th+amendment>, 14th 
<https://www.google.com/#q=14th+amendment> and 15th 
<https://www.google.com/#q=15th+amendment> amendments. But what did the 
South do? They ignored it for a century.”

“It isn’t until the ’60s that you see this deep, rich emergence of 
people fighting for rights that were enshrined in the Constitution a 
century before [between 1865 and 1870],” he said. “That’s because every 
state in the South and many states in the North were allowed to make 
exceptions to the Constitution when it came to black people. We learned 
that’s not just a Southern reality. You can’t talk about AEDPA 
the so-called Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty [Act of 1996] 
unless you have the same mindset that makes the Constitution an 
exceptional document.”

Racist, violent and despotic forces have always been part of the 
American landscape and have often been tolerated and empowered by the 
state to persecute poor people of color and dissidents. These forces are 
denied absolute power as long as a majority of citizens have a say in 
their own governance. The corporate elites, however, frightened by what 
the political scientist Samuel Huntington called an “excess of 
democracy” that originated in the 1960s, methodically destroyed the 
democratic edifice. They locked the citizens out of government. And by 
doing so they made sure that power shifted into the hands of the enemies 
of the open society. When democratic institutions cease to function, 
when the consent of the governed becomes a joke, despots, cranks, 
conspiracy theorists, con artists, generals, billionaires and 
proto-fascists fill the political void. They give vent to popular anger 
and frustration while arming the state to do to the majority what it has 
long done to the minority. This tale is as old as civilization. It was 
played out in ancient Greece and Rome, the Soviet Union, fascist 
Germany, fascist Italy and the former Yugoslavia.

Trump, an acute embarrassment to the corporate state and the organs of 
internal security, may be removed from the presidency, but such a palace 
coup would only further consolidate the power of the deep state 
<https://www.google.com/#q=define+deep+state> and intensify internal 
measures of repression. Millions of people, including the undocumented, 
those who have felony convictions, those locked in cages and poor people 
of color, have already been stripped of their rights, and some have been 
indiscriminately murdered by police. These minorities’ reality of daily 
state terror, unless this process of corporate pillage is halted, will 
spread and become normal with or without Trump.

In Abu-Jamal’s book “Live From Death Row 
he recounts his protest at a 1968 rally in Philadelphia held by the 
segregationist George Wallace during one of the Alabama governor’s runs 
for the Democratic presidential nomination. It is a reminder that 
Trump’s racism and lust for violence have long been part of the American 

Abu-Jamal writes of attending the rally with three other black teenagers:

    We must’ve been insane. We strolled into the stadium, four lanky
    dark string beans in a pot of white, steaming limas. The bank played
    “Dixie.” We shouted, “Black Power, Ungowa, black power!” They
    shouted, “Wallace for president! White power!” and “Send those
    niggers back to Africa! We shouted, “Black power, Ungowa!” (Don’t
    ask what “Ungowa” means. We didn’t know. All we knew was that it had
    a helluva ring to it.) “Black power!” They hissed and booed. We
    stood up in our seats and proudly gave the black power salute. In
    answer, we received dubious gifts of spittle from those seated
    above. Patriots tore American flags from their standards and hurled
    the bare sticks at us. Wallace, wrapped in roars of approval, waxed
    eloquent. “When I become president, these dirty, unwashed radicals
    will have to move to the Sov-ee-yet Union! You know, all throughout
    this campaign these radicals have been demonstrating against George
    Corley Wallace. Well, I hope they have the guts to lay down in front
    of my car. I’ll drive right over ’em!” The crowd went wild.

“Some police and other security came,” Abu-Jamal told me about the 
incident. “They escorted us out. We thought hey, we had a little fun. 
Our voices were heard. We went to the bus stop. And two or three of us 
were on the bus. A young guy named Alvin and a young guy named Eddie. I 
was usually the slowest, so I was behind them. A guy walked up and hit 
me with a blackjack. Knocked me down. Pulled Eddie and Alvin off the 
bus. We were getting our asses kicked. It never dawned on us these were 
cops. They can’t just walk up to us and beat us up [I thought].”

“I remember seeing a cop’s leg walk by,” he said. “I shouted help! Help, 
police! The guy looked at me. Looked down at me. He walked over and 
kicked me right in the face. Then it dawned on me all of these guys were 
cops. That was a little taste of [what would happen later in] 
Philadelphia. An introduction to trauma. We see it today. I can hear 
Trump saying, ‘Beat the hell out of them.’ It’s like the old days. Those 
weren’t good days. Those were ugly days. And the ugly day is today.”

“I have been thankful to that faceless cop ever since,” Abu-Jamal writes 
of the assault, “for he kicked me straight into the Black Panther Party.”

Abu-Jamal’s experience embodies the endemic racism and collapse of the 
American court system that railroad young black men and women into 
prison and onto death row. The Federal Bureau of Investigation placed 
him under surveillance when he was 15 years old. His FBI file swelled to 
700 pages. His crime was to be a dissident. He was followed, hauled in 
for questioning at random and threatened.

“While walking to work one day,” he writes, “I passed in front of an 
idling cop car. I glanced at the driver—white, with brown hair, and 
wearing dark shades. He ‘smiled,’ put his hand out the car window, and 
pointed a finger at me, his thumb cocked back like the hammer of a gun: 
bang—bang—bang—the finger jerked, as if from the recoil, and the cop 
gave it a cowboyish blast of breath before returning it to an imaginary 
holster. He and his pal laugh. Car rolls.”

The 1960s and 1970s saw a war on black radicals, which included FBI 
assassinations of leaders such as Fred Hampton 
<http://spartacus-educational.com/USAhamptonF.htm>. This war against 
radicals, President Nixon’s so-called battle for “law and order,” put 
the police, the FBI and other organs of internal security beyond the 
reach of the law. This power has only expanded since. We are all under 
state surveillance. And we can all become victims if the state deems us 
to be a threat. The loss of civilian oversight, along with the lack of 
transparency, is ominous.

Abu-Jamal was convicted of the 1981 murder of Daniel Faulkner, a white 
Philadelphia police officer. His trial was a sham. It included tainted 
evidence, suppressed defense witnesses, prosecution witnesses that 
contradicted their earlier testimony, a court-appointed lawyer, like 
most within the system, who was allotted few resources and had little 
inclination to defend his client, and a series of unconstitutional legal 
rulings by a judge out to convict the defendant. Terri Maurer-Carter, 
the stenographer at the trial, later signed an affidavit stating that 
during the trial she overheard the judge, Albert F. Sabo, say of 
Abu-Jamal, “Yeah and I’m gonna help ’em fry the nigger.” Sabo during his 
time on the bench sent 31 people to death row, more than any other judge 
in Pennsylvania. Abu-Jamal, who grew up in the housing projects of north 
Philadelphia, is imprisoned for our sins.

By 1977, Abu-Jamal, distressed by the internal feuding that tore apart 
the Black Panthers, had developed a close relationship with members of 
the Philadelphia MOVE organization <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MOVE>. 
MOVE members lived communally, preached Third World radicalism, ate 
natural foods and denounced the established black leaders as puppets of 
the white, capitalist ruling elites.

The Philadelphia police, who constantly harassed the group, besieged the 
MOVE compound starting in late 1977. On Aug. 7, 1978, a gun battle 
erupted between people in the compound and police outside. A police 
officer was killed. Delbert Africa, a MOVE member, was savagely beaten 
in front of television cameras. Nine MOVE members would be charged with 
murder. The trial, like the one held four years later for Abu-Jamal, was 
a farce. It was clear, Abu-Jamal wrote of the legal lynching of the MOVE 
members, that “the law did not matter.” Two of the nine, Merle and Phil 
Africa, have died in prison. The seven other MOVE members remain, like 
Abu-Jamal, locked away and denied freedom by parole boards. Abu-Jamal 
was given life without parole after being taken off death row by the courts.

The Philadelphia police and the FBI were determined to root what 
remained of MOVE out of the city and do so with enough brutality to 
discourage any other black radicals from organizing.

“On May 12 [the date the two-day-long attack began], Sunday, Mother’s 
Day of 1985, our home was surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of cops 
who came out there to kill not because of any complaints from neighbors 
but because of our unrelenting fight for our MOVE sisters and brothers 
known as the MOVE 9,” Ramona Africa told me in an interview last week. 
(Authorities, as one of their supposed justifications for acting against 
MOVE, cited neighborhood complaints about activities and conditions at 
the compound.) “We had been attacked and arrested in 1978. Thirty-nine 
years later, this August, they are still in prison. They became eligible 
for parole in 2008. The parole board just refuses to parole them.” 
[Chris Hedges’ interview with Ramona Africa begins at the 11-minute 
mark—click here 
for the video.]

“What people really need to understand is they did come out there [in 
1985] to kill, not to arrest,” she said. “They could have arrested at 
any time. They did not come out there for any complaint from neighbors. 
Those running this country, this entire worldwide system, have never 
cared about black people complaining about their neighbors. It’s never 
been an issue. Obviously, it was something other than that. Which was 
our unrelenting fight for our family members who are still in prison. 
They shot over 10,000 rounds of bullets in on us within 90 minutes. They 
dropped a bomb.”

The bomb ignited a fire that burned down a city block containing 61 homes.

“The fire department, who was out there from the very beginning, was 
immediately aware that there was a fire on our roof,” she said. “A 
conscious decision was made to not fight the fire. To let it burn. When 
we realized our home was on fire, we immediately tried to get our 
children, our animals, and ourselves out of that blazing inferno. The 
instant we were visible to cops we were met with a barrage of police 
gunfire aimed at us so that we couldn’t escape that fire. After several 
attempts to get out, I got out first. I was able to get one of our 
children, a little boy named Birdie, out. We were immediately snatched 
into custody. I’m looking for the rest of my family. Trying to see if I 
could see anyone else. It was a little later after they had taken us 
into custody that I found out nobody else [in the MOVE group] survived.”

Eleven members of MOVE, including the founder of the group, John Africa, 
and five children, were killed in the police assault.

“The people who killed my family were never charged, never prosecuted, 
never imprisoned for anything,” she said. “Meanwhile, my nine MOVE 
sisters and brothers [convicted in the 1978 shootout], Mumia Abu-Jamal, 
Leonard Peltier [a Native American activist imprisoned in a South Dakota 
murder case], all the way down to line, are in prison with the 
accusation of murder.”

Abu-Jamal wrote, “May 13th, 1985, is more than a day of infamy, when a 
city waged war on its own alleged citizens, but also when the city 
committed massacre and did so with perfect impunity, when babies were 
shot and burned alive with their mothers and fathers, and the killers 
rewarded with honors and pensions, while politicians talked and the 
media mediated mass murder. On that day, the city, armed and assisted by 
the US government, dropped a bomb on a house and called it law. The fire 
department watched buildings ignite like matches in the desert and cut 
off water. The courts of the land turned a blind eye, daubed mud in 
their socket, and prosecuted Ramona Africa for having the nerve to 
survive an urban holocaust, jailing her for the crime of not burning to 
death. Eleven men, women and children died, and not one killer was even 
charged with a misdemeanor.”

Ramona Africa, charged with “rioting,” spent seven years in prison.

[For a 69-second video showing the bomb exploding on the Philadelphia 
compound roof in 1985, click here 
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvEzA8aUJoU>. For a 56-minute 
documentary about the assault on the compound and the circumstances 
surrounding it, click here 

Our failure to defend those who are demonized and persecuted leaves us 
all demonized and persecuted. Our failure to demand justice for everyone 
leaves us all without justice. Our failure to halt the crushing of 
popular movements that stand unequivocally with the oppressed leaves us 
all oppressed. Our failure to protect our democracy leaves us without a 
democracy. The persecution of Mumia Abu-Jamal, MOVE members and all the 
radicals of four decades ago is not ancient history. It is the genesis 
of the present. It spawned the corporate coup and the machinery of state 
terror. We will pay for our complacency.

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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