Voices From the Inside

By: Mumia Abu-Jamal, Mark Clements, and Vernon Evans

Fight for Mumia Abu-Jamal’s freedom

The fight for justice for Mumia has entered a critical stage.

Lawyers for Mumia Abu-Jamal will present oral arguments before the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals May 17 in Philadelphia. If successful, Mumia could be granted a new trial. If not, his death sentence could be reaffirmed and an execution date set. Mumia’s lawyers will show that Mumia’s trial was tainted with racism and constitutional violations.

Mumia has been denied justice since the moment he was picked up in 1981. He has spent more than 25 years in a dismal cell for 23 hours a day. Yet despite these conditions, he has managed to be an inspiration to millions. He has become known as the “Voice of the Voiceless” and has written numerous books.

We must demand the courts do right by Mumia and grant him a new trial. He deserves to be free and return to his rightful place in society—behind his desk, and in the streets, doing what he does best: helping to make the world a better place.

Here is a recent piece about the Iraq war written by Mumia, and reprinted with his permission.

Give war a chance

A lifetime ago, when the British rock band the Beatles were at the top of the charts, and before cable TV and the reign of computers, antiwar activists sang a haunting chorus as they demonstrated by the tens of thousands at the Pentagon: “All we are saying is give peace a chance.”

Decades later, and there is still war (albeit in another place, and for another “cause”), and demonstrations seem far less potent than in times past.

American imperialism, unshackled by the prospect of a true global rival, now fairly bellows in the face of its own unpopularity (in the voice of its acolytes, like George W. Bush): “Give war a chance.”

The Iraq invasion and occupation has been an admitted disaster, and those who called for it the loudest are deserting that sinking ship like rats on a wharf.

The U.S. imperial president, flirting with disapproval numbers that rival Nixon’s at the height of the Watergate scandal, is overwhelming only in his irrelevance, and perhaps his inability to convince anybody to believe his blather about the so-called “war on terror.”

So, in light of the administration’s latest maneuver to support the flagging war with “new ideas” about a “surge,” the White House and its minions on the Hill are asking Americans to “give the president’s plan a chance.”

In the face of this catastrophe, what is the role of Congress? It proposes to debate, and then, after debating, to issue a nonbinding resolution, which condemns the current troop build-up, and also critiques the president’s present handling of the war.

In essence, Congress agrees to say, “We don’t like what you’re doing, but we won’t stop it.” This in a time of war—a war launched on lies and subterfuge.

Apparently, over 600,000 dead Iraqis, over 3,000 dead Americans, and over $400 billion lost in this failing effort, isn’t quite enough.

In fact, the Congress could stop the war today by cutting the war budget. But it won’t do this, for it might endanger a congressman’s future political prospects.

Most of the millions of people who voted in the midterm elections did so to send a strong antiwar message. The majority party heading both houses of Congress has indeed changed, but little else has. It has resolved to issue words, while the president launches bombs.

And given his profoundly neoconservative bent, it is entirely possible that, before the remaining two years have passed through time’s hourglass, the U.S. may have launched a strike against Iran.

Even now we hear the media stirrings, provocations meant to soften up the American populace for a new “preemptive war.”

What did your votes really mean? Do you really still believe that you live in a democracy?

What you voted for, and what you believe, is ultimately irrelevant.

The words of the legendary Black freedom fighter Frederick Douglass echo through the annals of time: “Power concedes nothing without demand. It never has, and never will.”

Voting is never enough. These ruinous wars didn’t begin in a voting booth; nor will voting, standing alone, end them. It will take much stronger stuff.

Copyright 2007 Mumia Abu-Jamal

Mumia Abu-Jamal, #AM 8335, 175 Progress Drive, Waynesburg, PA 15370-8090

One of Chicago’s first torture victims

The following letter is from a victim of Chicago police torture. Mark Clements was arrested at age 16 and held in lockup until he was 17, so he could be tried as an adult. He was convicted and given four life sentences plus 30 years.

Mark is now 42 years old and has been imprisoned for over 25 years. His mother Virgina Clements is an active member of the CEDP in Chicago. She is fighting to bring recognition about the injustice Mark suffered, and remains committed to the fight for abolition. Recently, she, along with other CEDPers, made the trip to Springfield to show support for abolition bill SB 328.

On June 17, 1981, a fire occurred at 6602 S. Wentworth Ave in Chicago, in which four people died. Ms. Ramona Patton and her boyfriend Derrick Banks plotted to collect a reward from the building owner. They told police detectives at the Area Three violent crimes unit (Daniel McWeeney and James Higgins) that I threatened them with a gas can, and that they had heard rumors that I set this fire. I was taken into police custody at Area Three. I was interrogated by Detectives McWeeney and Higgins. I was denied access to my parents and allowed only to see a youth officer at the end of the interrogation— despite the fact that I told them I could not read or write beyond the third grade. I told them I had no knowledge or involvement with this crime.In the police station washroom, I saw a white detective drinking alcohol. I was put in a closet-size interrogation room and handcuffed to a ring that was attached to the wall. I was beaten in the chest, arms, thighs, back and stomach. I was beaten along the boney area of my arms, shoulders and chest, and my private area was squeezed by Detective John McCann.

When Cook County State’s Attorney Kevin Moore came to see me, I told him I was beaten. Moore left the room and told detectives what I told him. I was beaten again in a similar fashion, and called “ni****” during the torture of my private area.

I was found guilty on this confession alone, without ONE witness testifying for the prosecutors, other than the Chicago police. I told a packed courtroom of supporters and media on September 21, 1982, before sentencing, “If police would beat and frame me a kid, Judge Williams Cousins, they have done it before, and you have allowed it. You are supposed to be fair, but you let the police steal my youth.”

At the age of 17, I was given four life sentences, plus 30 years.

Mark Clements #N-23123, Pontiac Correctional Center, P.O. Box 99, Pontiac, IL 61764

For a man in Texas

This letter was written by Maryland death row prisoner Vernon Evans in support of Texas death row prisoners who organized a group called DRIVE, which stands for Death Row Inner-Communalistic Vanguard Engagement. DRIVE members are organizing against the horrendous conditions death row prisoners endure in Texas. Prisoners are stuck in their cells 23 hours a day. All visitors are kept behind plexiglass, there are no TVs, and prisoners are allowed only one phone call for five minutes every six months. DRIVE members have staged nonviolent protests, such as hunger strikes and refusing to participate in their own executions.

To read more about these conditions and DRIVE’s efforts, check out their website at www.drivemovement.org. Send letters of solidarity for DRIVE’s work to: CEDP, P.O. Box 25730, Chicago, IL 60625.

I have read about the situation in Texas. I’m compelled to write in the hopes that my words may be a tool, not of comfort, but to show that they are being heard. Out of respect, I wish to give all that I can give to these men.We are supposed to be reaching across the seas to stop inhumane treatment in other countries. But this country is blind again to what is 100 percent inhumane to men right here in America.
My friends, believe me when I tell you that I have firsthand knowledge that the Justice Department uses men like you and me to demonstrate that it is not about justice. It’s about money, power and authority. It’s about killing, and using the law to cover up the killing.

The mere mention of death row in Texas allows anyone who has read any articles or books about slavery in this country to know how that fear felt. When the outright killing of men of color had to stop, we know they developed a program of fear to maintain a certain amount of killing.

But just like anything worthwhile, the defeat of evil will be accomplished not by being comfortable, but by being heard, and listening, too.

In this state, it has taken many years of holding up signs and marching. Lives were taken, lives spared, but most important was being heard.

My quest is simple—to get rid of the death penalty across the nation. Each time I speak, I’m giving my word for you all—that I will make sure I speak of the inhumane treatment of men on the row in Texas.

Peace will come, One Love

Vernon Evans #172357, 401 E. Madison Ave., Baltimore, MD 21202