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News and reports

August 3, 2001 | Page 14

Free Mumia Abu-Jamal
Protest Cheney
No executions in Washington, D.C.
California death penalty
Stop the Klan in South Carolina

Stop the racist drug war


TULIA, Texas--More than 300 people rallied and marched in this dusty northwest Texas town against the racist war on drugs and to support the 46 people arrested here in a 1999 drug raid.

On July 23, 1999, 46 Tulia residents--40 of whom were African-American--were arrested and charged with dealing powder cocaine. The charges--based solely on the word of a shady undercover deputy named Tom Coleman--resulted in jail sentences for 22 of those arrested and probation for many more.

The "Never Again" rally in Tulia marked the two-year anniversary of the arrests and featured Tulia residents, drug-policy reformers and veterans of the civil rights movement. The multiracial rally ended with a midnight march to the courthouse where the arrestees were paraded in front of television cameras two years earlier.

"What I've seen in the Tulia courtroom is something I haven't seen in years. It was a kangaroo court," said Tulia NAACP head Freddie Brookins, whose son is serving a 22-year sentence. "That's the face of racism."

Cleveland Joe Henderson, 25, told Socialist Worker about the night of the arrests. "They came into my house," Henderson said. "There was no evidence. All they said was, 'The grand jury had all the evidence to take you to jail.' They didn't let me put on my clothes. This was animal stuff."

Seeing the long sentences received by other defendants--some up to 99 years--Henderson took a plea bargain and received five years probation. "I hated that I had to give up my life to be free," he said. "I regret that because I'm innocent. My life came to a halt since [the arrest] happened...I pretty much stay at home, go to work and associate with my family."

The Tulia raid is only the most blatant example of something that goes on everyday. We need to keep fighting on behalf of those arrested here and end the "war on drugs" that's racist to the core.

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Free Mumia Abu-Jamal

PHILADELPHIA--As Socialist Worker went to press, we got the news that Pennsylvania death row prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal will be in court in Philadelphia August 17. Mumia's new legal team has taken his appeal back to a state court to argue that his former counsel was ineffective.

August 17 is the anniversary of Mumia's first execution date in 1995. In that year, sustained protests across the U.S. and internationally forced the state to back down. Now, organizers in Philadelphia are calling for a demonstration to show the state that we'll be watching.

Mumia--a Black journalist--was framed for the 1981 killing of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner and sent to death row. Philadelphia authorities targeted Mumia because of his long-standing reputation as a fighter against police brutality.

We won't rest until Mumia's free!

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Protest Cheney


PITTSBURGH--About 200 people protested July 16 outside an invitation--only "town hall meeting" on the Bush administration's energy policy.

Vice President Dick Cheney was joined by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge at the Community College of Allegheny County's Boyce campus for a staged media event designed to help Bush, Cheney and their pals in the oil, gas and nuclear industry build support for their environmentally destructive plans.

Protesters made their way to the isolated campus to speak out against the Bush administration's contempt for the environment--and the exclusion of any voice of criticism from the "town hall" event.

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No executions in Washington, D.C.


WASHINGTON--Federal prosecutors are determined to use the death penalty here even though residents have consistently opposed it.

Capital punishment was the subject of referendums in Washington in 1992 and 1997, and both times voters rejected it by wide margins. Yet the federal government is pushing for the death penalty for Tommy Edelin, who is currently on trial on charges that he ordered murders while allegedly running a drug ring in Southeast D.C.

Many of the injustices of the system that opponents of the death penalty point to are on display in this case. For example, Edelin--who is Black and comes from one of the poorest neighborhoods in D.C.--is the only one of five defendants in the government's case who faces the death penalty.

It's widely believed that Edelin is being singled out because he refused to cooperate with police and prosecutors during a previous drug prosecution. Edelin's codefendants have been coaxed into pointing the finger at him through the common tactics of intimidation, favors from police and promises of reduced charges.

Meanwhile, during jury selection, 350 out of 500 potential jurors were rejected for voicing their opposition to the death penalty.

Members of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty are working to bring together different groups opposed to executions to stand with Tommy Edelin's family against the prosecutors and Department of Justice bureaucrats who want to impose the death penalty on a city that doesn't want it.

On July 18, the Campaign joined with Amnesty International, American Friends Service Committee and other groups to cosponsor a lunchtime rally against the death penalty outside of the D.C. Federal Court. About 50 activists braved the rain to make their voice heard--and tell the powers that be that we won't stand by while democracy is ignored and the racist death penalty is brought to Washington, D.C.

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California death penalty


OAKLAND, Calif.--About 20 anti-death penalty activists picketed the Alameda County District Attorney's office on July 26. The protest was organized by the Campaign to End the Death Penalty as part of an ongoing effort to pressure District Attorney Tom Orloff to stop pushing for death sentences in cases where capital punishment is a legal option.

Activists are also demanding that the Alameda County Board of Supervisors pass a resolution for a moratorium on executions in California. Petitions for the two demands have been presented to Orloff's office. The petitions carried 450 signatures, collected in under a month at public transit stations and in neighborhood parks.

Orloff, who is up for re-election in 2002, has not responded and has refused to debate anyone on the merits of the death penalty, but claims that he is "sensitive" to public opinion around the issue. The Campaign was joined by members of the ACLU, the American Friends Service Committee, the ISO and Oakland mayoral candidate Wilson Riles.

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Stop the Klan in South Carolina


LAURENS, S.C.--Anti-racists gathered here to protest a Ku Klux Klan rally, only to find out that First Amendment rights in this predominantly Black county are reserved for racists. When they reached Laurens, protesters were told by police that, under a "Jim Crow" city ordinance, they would be arrested for merely holding a sign on the sidewalk.

These weren't idle threats. Just ask Rev. David Kennedy, who told Socialist Worker that he's been arrested five times in his hometown for simply holding up a sign against the racists.

Kennedy is one of the few people from the community who will still come out to show opposition to the Klan, which holds regular rallies in Laurens. "[The police] have instilled fear in the Black community--that's why there are no Black people here to protest," Kennedy said. "They know that the police only need an excuse to arrest them."

Laurens officials say that anti-racists should turn a deaf ear to the Klan, and moderate organizations like KlanWatch also suggest alternatives to demonstrating, such as holding peaceful "picnics" across town when the Klan calls a rally. But this disregard for the impact of the Klan's presence has bred a town where racism is accepted. Laurens claims the world's only Ku Klux Klan museum and is home to the infamous Redneck Shop, a store that displays an open coffin with a Black mannequin with a noose around its neck.

"I think we need to resort to civil disobedience," Kennedy told Socialist Worker. "That means going to jail. It means sitting in the streets. I think we have to go back to the spirit of the '60s. I think the Black community needs to hook up with other communities. Black and white need to come together."

About 20 protesters traveled to Laurens to shout down racism, the largest group that townspeople have seen in years. But obviously more is needed. Now is the time to organize with activists across the South--and to unite Blacks and whites in this fight to end racism.

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