Capitalist propaganda claims that the United States is a country "with liberty and justice for all." But this is a lie! In actuality it is a dictatorship of the capitalists. This shows up in subtle ways in a non-revolutionary period, but in a revolutionary period its brutal dictatorship is open and undisguised. This is seen not only in its treatment of the workers and oppressed people, but especially in its treatment of revolutionaries.
Mumia Abu-Jamal has been a revolutionary since he was a teenager. At 15 he joined the Black Panther Party, later becoming its Minister of Information in Philadelphia. Even after the demise of the Panthers, Mumia earned the hatred of the cops as a revolutionary journalist, exposing the vicious brutality of the police against poor people, especially against the Black population of Philadelphia. Mumia was justly known as the "voice of the voiceless."
On December 9, 1981, Mumia was driving a cab when he saw Officer Daniel Faulkner beating his brother. Mumia stopped to intervene, and within a few minutes Faulkner had been shot dead and Mumia was shot and lying on the street severely wounded. Although several eye-witnesses told the police they saw someone else run away, Mumia was arrested and charged with murder for Faulkner's shooting. He was convicted and sentenced to death in July of 1982. Mumia has been in jail now for 16 years.
The police forced witnesses to perjure themselves at Mumia's trial, showing their role as the front line of oppression of the capitalist state. The most outrageous example was that of Veronica Jones, who was then working as a prostitute and at the time of Mumia's trial was facing charges of armed robbery. At the time of the shooting she had told the police that she saw two men run from the scene. However, the police threatened that if she testified to that, she would be jailed for the charges she was facing and not see her young children for 10 years. Therefore, at the trial, she claimed that she did not see anyone running away, and was rewarded for her perjury by being given probation for the charges against her.
At a hearing for Post-Conviction Relief in October, 1996, Jones admitted that she had lied at the original trial. However, Judge Sabo, Mumia's original trial judge, refused to have her new testimony admitted as evidence. In clear government retaliation for her courageous decision to tell the truth, as Jones left the witness stand she was arrested on an old charge of passing a bad check.
Two other women, who had been prostitutes working for the police, including Cynthia White, the prosecution's main witness, were threatened to try to make them testify against Mumia. Another witness, Robert Chobert, was a cab driver whose license had been revoked. He originally told police he had seen the person who shot Faulkner run away. But under a promise of help by the police in getting his license back, he testified that Mumia was the shooter. Although he did not get his license back, he continued to drive for 10 years without being charged.
The witnesses were forced by the police to perjure themselves based on their class situation. Many women under capitalism who lack of jobs and income are forced into prostitution and other petty crimes, leaving them vulnerable to police pressure. Others, like the cab driver, were similarly subject to police bribes and threats. It was on the basis of such testimony that Mumia was convicted. This shows the mockery of the claim of equal justice under the law. On the contrary, there can be no equality between exploiters and exploited. The capitalist justice system is only for the rich.
The actions of the rest of the bourgeois "justice" system show that the frame-up of Mumia was no mistake, nor merely the case of cops "angry over the death of one of their own," or of an over-eager prosecution. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has only turned the case back over to Judge Sabo, and the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to take up the case. Even now, after all the testimony of the police-induced perjury that was used to frame Mumia, the courts have refused to even grant him a new trial, much less free him. Mumia only escaped execution in 1995 because of a massive public outcry in the U.S. and internationally. He still languishes on death row, where he has been for over 15 years.
The framing and even execution of revolutionaries has a long history in the United States. Those involved in slave rebellions were executed with only sham trials by courts of slave owners. Leaders of the Native peoples who resisted the genocidal encroachment of the settler armies were similarly executed after trials before settler courts, usually military tribunals. No pretense was made of having a "jury of ones peers." In the working class movement, there was the notorious frame-up in the Haymarket case in 1886. Eight leaders in the fight for the 8-hour day were arrested and convicted. Four of them were executed, with others sentenced to many years in prison. In 1912 Joe Hill, an organizer for the IWW in Utah, was framed on a murder charge and executed. In 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed, framed on the ridiculous charge of having given the non-existent "secret of the atom bomb" to the Soviet Union.
Hundreds of leaders of revolutionary national movements have either been imprisoned for their actions or framed for their beliefs and activities. The leader of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, Pedro Albizu Campos, spent a total of decades in U.S. prisons for fighting for the freedom of Puerto Rico. He was only released shortly before his death from cancer in 1965. The 5 Puerto Rican Nationalist Prisoners served over 25 years in prison for an armed attack on the U.S. Congress and on the Blair House, the temporary presidential residence. They were only released in 1979, having been the longest-serving political prisoners in the hemisphere. Just between May of 1967 and December of 1969, 768 members of the Black Panther Party (BPP) were arrested under the government's notorious counter-intelligence program, COINTELPRO. Two former Panthers were recently released after long years in jail: Dhoruba bin Wahad was freed in 1990 after serving 19 years, and Geronimo ji Jaga Pratt was released last June after serving 27 years, though he still faces the threat of a new trial. Geronimo was framed for a murder that the authorities knew he did not commit, since he was under government surveillance at a meeting 400 miles away at the time of the killing. However, many political prisoners are still serving long prison sentences. To give just a few examples: David Rice (Mondo Langa) and Ed Poindexter, members of a BPP support group in Nebraska, have been in prison for about 26 years. Leonard Peltier is serving a life sentence, framed for the murder of an FBI agent who was taking part in a campaign to suppress the Lakota people at Wounded Knee in retaliation for their uprising at Wounded Knee in 1973. And 15 Puerto Rican political prisoners and prisoners of war are currently serving an average of over 70 years each in prison, sentenced for "seditious conspiracy" for fighting to free their homeland.
Many militant trade-union leaders have also been framed for fighting in the interests of the working class. For example, in the Greyhound strike in 1990, at least 3 drivers, Roger Cawtha of West Hartford, Connecticut, and Harry Lewis and Roy Simes, both from St. Louis, Missouri, were arrested on trumped-up charges. Jerry Dale Lowe, a mine-worker framed on charges of shooting a scab, was sentenced to 11 years imprisonment in 1996 for defending a picket line in Logan County, West Virginia.
There have, of course, been many cases of extra-judicial execution of revolutionaries. Dozens of members of the Black Panther Party were executed by the police, the best known being Chicago Panther leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark. But we also remember the murder of Angel Rodriguez Cristobal in 1979, a leader of the Liga Socialista Puertorriqueña, who the police claim "hanged himself" in a Florida jail where he was serving a sentence for protesting the use of Puerto Rico's Vieques island as a firing range by the U.S. Navy. And a member of the Young Lords Party, Julio Roldán, was similarly found hanged in his cell in New York City in 1970.
The treatment of political prisoners is only the most blatant evidence that shows that the U.S. is a bourgeois dictatorship. Every day people are sentenced to long prison terms for crimes they did not commit, just because the police need to find someone to blame for some crime to clear the books. Just this December 2, two Anglo working class brothers, Dale and Ronnie Mahan, were released after serving almost 14 years in prison in Alabama for a rape that DNA evidence now proves they did not commit. Ordinary working class people, especially from the oppressed nationalities, have no money to hire fancy lawyers to clear their names. They are generally defended by court-appointed attorneys (as was Mumia after the trial judge refused him the right to defend himself). These attorneys, even if they should have any interest, have no time or money to investigate the case, and usually recommend pleading guilty to lesser charges, so that the defendants never even get their "day in court" to present their story. Of course, high-powered gangsters, whether they are bourgeois executives caught in savings and loan scandals, or banks managers involved in money laundering for drug operations, organized crime figures, etc., either never serve any time or serve their sentences in Federal prisons built like country clubs. And of course, police officers involved in acts of brutality, including cold-blooded murder, almost never serve any time, as the capitalists need the services of these tools of repression.
The criminal justice system is part of the bourgeois state apparatus, a force unrestricted even by its own laws. This capitalist state, as long as it exists, serves only to repress the working class and oppressed people. It is especially used against those revolutionaries who are fighting for liberation against class exploitation and national oppression. We must fight to mobilize people for the freedom of our imprisoned brothers and sisters. But at the same time, to end this oppression and exploitation, we must prepare for a revolution that will overthrow the capitalist state.
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