A birthday rally for Mumia

April 30, 2012

SOME 300 people gathered outside of the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., on April 24 to protest the continued incarceration of Mumia Abu-Jamal and the systemic racism and injustice revealed by his case.

Mumia, a journalist and former Black Panther, was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death in 1982 for the killing of a Philadelphia police officer. In January, he was sentenced to life in prison, after being removed from death row.

April 24 was Mumia's birthday, and demonstrators came from as far as New York City and Philadelphia to protest Mumia's continued imprisonment and the crisis of mass incarceration. Following the rally, protesters marched to the White House where two dozen protesters were arrested for refusing to obey an order to disperse.

Many protesters and speakers drew connections between Mumia's case and other recent instances of racist injustice. Black Hippie, who traveled from Bed-Stuy in New York City to attend the protest, said she came "to support Mumia on his birthday and for all the injustices, from Trayvon to Troy to Mumia, that have happened in the past and that are still happening today."

Leo Zausen, a member of a student activist group at American University called Justice Not Jails, attended the protest with other students. Zausen talked about why he was there:

We are concentrating on prison abolition in our Justice Not Jails group, so Mumia's case has importance to us. We have a lot of momentum around criminal justice issues. Angela Davis came to speak, and we have been reading Michelle Alexander's New Jim Crow.

Students are rallying around the issues of mass incarceration and criminal injustice, because it really affects young people. Here in D.C., where we have Wells Fargo profiting off of sending kids to prison, people are really getting energized to fight these issues.

Protesters held signs and banners outside of the Department of Justice. Speakers included organizers from Philadelphia, members of the Occupy D.C. criminal injustice committee, Chuck D of Public Enemy and Mumia himself, who called in from prison.

Roxana Marroquin, an activist and artist who traveled from New York to attend the protest, was "inspired by the injustice of Mumia being wrongly incarcerated for so many years, and by the need to mobilize a movement for justice."

Marroquin said that the execution of Troy Davis inspired her to activism. "I came down here in the hopes that we can build a movement that can bring out millions of people because these issues affect all of us," she said.

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