Peralta Community College District's Only Student-Run Publication
Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

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    Review on Free Mumia Abu-Jamal teach-in

    by Yohana Gebre

    A teach-in held at Laney College on March 26 aimed to motivate students to become activists in the fight to free Mumia Abu-Jamal and other political prisoners.

    Born Wesley Cook, Mumia Abu-Jamal was accused of the murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner December 9, 1981. He was convicted and sentenced to death row in 1982.

    Carol Seligman, a co-chair organizer of the event, started the rally by explaining that Abu-Jamal has been in prison for 36 years and she believes he is innocent. She said that he was shot as well and the four witnesses that placed Abu-Jamal at the crime scene later revoked their statements.

    “Ronald Castille was the prosecutor and the judge for Abu-Jamal and is also right-wing and corrupt,” Seligman said, referring to the fact that Castille prosecuted Abu-Jamal in 1982, and later presided over all of Abu-Jamal’s appeals as a judge, which he denied.

    Seligman explained that efforts to free him needed to double since a recent Supreme Court ruling, William v. Pennsylvania (2016), ruled that a prosecutor who had a significant personal involvement in a case can not, later on, be a judge in the same case.

    Abu-Jamal’s youth was checkered with petty crimes. At the time of his arrest, he was the president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalism.

    “He was pre-targeted by the police [at the association],” Seligman said, adding that he believed local police regarded Abu-Jamal as a petty, poor criminal.

    Former Black Panther member Arthur League spoke to attendees about political prisoners. League believes that Abu-Jamal should be released from jail so that they can help lead the cause against incarceration of political prisoners and police brutality.

    “Whether he is innocent or not, he is in prison and needs to get out,” he said, referring to the fact that he believes political prisoners such as Abu-Jamal are wrongfully incarcerated.

    Judy Greenspan, Oakland teacher and representative of the Oakland Education Association, said that political prisoners need to be released and Abu-Jamal has been doing activism work from jail by writing and hosting a podcast, which has allowed him to gain support to be released.

    “It would be to our benefit to bring him out so he can fight alongside with us,” Greenspan said. She said the real criminals are the wealthy 1% of America, and that they should be the ones locked up.

    A 1995 New York Times article describes how the events on December 9, 1981, led to Faulkner’s death and Abu-Jamal’s imprisonment.

    At 3:55 am on the night in question, officer Faulkner performed a traffic stop on Abu-Jamal’s car, driven by his brother, William Cook. Abu-Jamal was a taxicab driver at the time and was driving by when he saw his brother being pulled over.

    The Times reported that Abu-Jamal pulled over and approached officer Faulkner, resulting in a physical confrontation. Faulkner was shot in the back, four times to the front and the fatal shot fired in the head. Abu-Jamal was shot in the stomach once, and was rushed to the hospital. Officer Faulkner died at the scene.

    At the teach-in, former Black Panther and affiliate of Oscar Grant Committee Against Police Brutality, Gerald Smith explained how Abu-Jamal was “set up and framed by the cops.”

    When Abu-Jamal was arrested and charged with murder for officer Faulkner, he acted as his own lawyer since the lawyers the state gave him “was unqualified,” said Smith.

    Smith expressed that it was important to get Abu-Jamal out of prison, especially with the recent Supreme Court ruling. He said that this was their chance and they need all the support they can get.

    “We gonna win this year,” Smith said.

    Yohana Gebre is a Laney Tower staff writer.

    About the Contributor
    In the fall of 2019, The Laney Tower rebranded as The Citizen and launched a new website. These stories were ported over from the old Laney Tower website, but byline metadata was lost in the port. However, many of these stories credit the authors in the text of the story. Some articles may also suffer from formatting issues. Future archival efforts may fix these issues.  
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