July 9, 1999 - The July 4th weekend was an amazing and inspiring one for all of us at Philly Freedom Summer (PFS)! We were joined by many more volunteers - from Atlanta, Detroit, San Francisco, North Carolina, Minnesota, Ohio, New Jersey and more people from Philly itself - so that we've almost doubled our numbers to close to 60 people. Some are PFS veterans or are part of the R&R! Youth Network; some just met us through the large Mumia demonstrations on April 24th! Others have been working in their local areas to stop the execution - like in the Minnesota Free Mumia Coalition or the Santa Cruz Free Mumia Coalition..
Some heard about us on their campuses and others of us are in SYSTEM (Students and Youth to Stop The Execution of Mumia), the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade, the Binghamton Anti-Death Penalty Network or the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty! All of us have been extremely excited to be part of the fifth Philly Freedom Summer, modeled on the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964 when over a thousand youth traveled to the Deep south. In one of the most crucial battles of their generation, they confronted the brutal racism Black people faced. The mission of Philly Freedom Summer is to organize visible support for Mumia through the Face of Justice poster campaign right in Philadelphia, the site of the 1985 MOVE bombing, the notorious 39th district police scandals, the city that has set records for seeking the death penalty against Black defendants.
Since Tuesday, we've been going out in our squads getting hundreds of Face of Justice posters up in both residential and business windows in Germantown and West Philly. This year's new design has been grabbed up - people like that you can clearly see Mumia's face! PFS volunteers have gone into the projects and met lots of people. We've been invited back for more discussions, video showings and to figure out how to build more support in the neighborhood and beyond. A Boston volunteer put it this way, "I've never gone door to door to talk to people before. These people have a knowledge of the whole screwed up situation we're living in that you can't get except from being on the street and talking to them."
On Friday night, July 2nd there was a hip hop concert and two of our volunteers, Miles and Puck, performed on the spot convinced by audience demand (they are that good!). On Saturday, there was a Civil Disobedience (CD) action at the Liberty Bell -- July 3rd was the day of Mumia's sentencing in 1982. Some of us in PFS decided to be part of that action. Others of us continued to do outreach to build for our Monday demo in Germantown. The CD really marked a stepped up, determined action in support of Mumia, with 95 people putting their bodies on the line and shutting down the Liberty Bell!
A noisy, loud chanting human chain surrounded the Liberty Bell pavilion - blocking everyone from entering. Some people were inside, in front of the cracked Bell and had to be dragged away by police. Most of the CDers stood or sat in front of the entrance to the Liberty Bell. When the police tried to drive the van away with those who were the first to be arrested, some bold souls laid down in front of the paddy wagon! A crowd of about 200 supporters gathered around the CDers, chanting "Ain't no power like the power of the people 'cause the power of the people don't stop!" and cheering wildly whenever the cops arrested someone. Sarah who spoke for Refuse & Resist at the CD rally said that "It was a once in a life time experience. Everyone was so emotional, intense and supportive. I felt that everyone in the movement was supporting each other regardless of factions, which is new." Two protesters had climbed up on the roof of the Pavilion with a banner that proclaimed: "Freedom Rings for Mumia." They were the last two to be arrested. The park rangers had to find a forklift to get them down which created a huge spectacle in and of itself!
People of all different ages and nationalities were arrested. This included four of the PFSers; two at large members of the R&R! National Council, Clark Kissinger and Mark Taylor (the latter founder of Academics for Mumia); Frances Goldin ( Mumia's literary agent for Live from Death Row); as well as people from the National People's Campaign, War Resister's League, SLAM, WESPAC, New York Free Mumia Coalition, SYSTEM, ACT-UP, Rainbow Flag, and many others.Some protesters were held for more than 9 hours!
The CD was a huge success. It shut down the Liberty Bell for most of the day -- one of the busiest tourist days of the year. It brought much-needed national media attention to Mumia's case and showed how serious and determined the movement to stop the execution is.
We all returned to the Liberty Bell again the next day, July 4th, at the rally called by International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal. Quite ironically, President Clinton was scheduled to award the "Liberty Medal" to South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, who once faced the death penalty for being a political dissident in his country. Protesters on the loudspeaker exposed the U.S. Government's hypocrisy in honoring a foreign former political prisoner while many political prisoners languish in prisons here in the U.S. Over 50 of us PFSers were there with our banner and the Face of Justice poster. Miles from the R&R! Youth Network and Sarah, an intern with the R&R! National Office, spoke for the Philly Freedom Summer volunteers. The Associated Press reported that "... supporters of ... Mumia Abu-Jamal held their own demonstration, and their chanting and shouting could be heard throughout Kim's speech."
Then on Monday, July 5th, we, the PFS volunteers, numbering more than 60, hit the streets of G-town! For nearly 3 hours we wound around the neighborhood with our banner - "Mumia is fearless so are we, We won't stop until he's free!" We took over all of Chilton Avenue, the main commercial area in G-town! About 4-6 neighborhood kids had taped the Face of Justice posters to the handle bars of their bikes and were weaving in and around the demo. Sometimes out front, sometimes within it! Cars enthusiastically took up the call to honk for Mumia! Someone said it felt like 42nd street in midtown Manhattan - all the noise, all the cars, all the commotion! Cars displayed the poster and would drive around and come back to be part of the scene again. Some people from the community joined in. Others were hanging out of doorways, windows and porches with either fists in the air or the Face of Justice poster in hand! The march charged the streets. Our crew was jumping around and dancing in the street chanting: "This goes out to my man Mumia, put your fists up in the air if you feel me, freedom all day, freedom all night, we gonna set him free!" (to the rhyme of a Jay-Z song).
We stopped at the corners to do agitation - to talk about the case, to explain what Philly Freedom Summer was about, why we came from around the country to be in Philly, what the Face of Justice poster campaign was about and what it would take the stop the execution. Everyone walking by got flyers and the poster, some joined in passing posters out. People in the community liked that we were from all over the country. This made a difference to them.
Cop cars circled the march as well, sometimes in threes. Earlier in the day, two unmarked cars parked near where we were gathering. The telephone line at one of the places we were staying has been unable to receive incoming calls since last week. Funny thing, we've learned that International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, SYSTEM, and the Philly R&R! Chapter voice mail all had similar telephone problems! Also after our march, people in the neighborhood were telling us that before and during the demo, the police were riding around warning people to stay in their homes and not go outside.
"They [being the cops] made us feel like we were accomplishing something. But some of the PFS volunteers were a little scared. So there was some hesitation about taking the streets from the beginning" said David from Cleveland. But once we got started and people came out of their houses -- Everyone was psyched. We marched more than 2 hours and still people didn't want to quit! And it was damn hot! Like 102 degrees - but still people were running, chanting, and jumping! It was incredible. People saw something new in the neighborhood.
Later that night, some of us were walking back to where we were staying and these 5-7 kinds who had joined the march saw us a block away and started chanting "Free Mumia! Free Mumia!" As we got closer, we could hear others of them excitedly telling their friends and families what had happened at the march! The community was buzzing about the demo!
All together the July 4th weekend actions showed the other side a glimpse of what's coming up in this next period!
Support the Philly Freedom Summer volunteers! Funds urgently needed. Contact
Refuse & Resist! 305 Madison Avenue, Suite 1166, New York, NY 10165
http://www.refuseandresist.org email: refuse @calyx.com
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