Co-chairperson for the National Jericho Amnesty Movement and former Black Panther/Black Liberation Army political prisoner Jihad Abdulmumit introduces his new segment focusing on political prisoners and the politics surrounding their work and incarceration.
JARED BALL, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome, everyone, back to the Real News Network. I’m Jared Ball here in Baltimore. While many would deny it and few are focused on it, the reality is that there remain a good number of political prisoners here in the United States. As a new segment here at the Real News, we want to pay particular attention to these women and men and the politics surrounding their work and current or former status as political prisoners. To introduce this new segment is its new host, Jihad Abdulmumit. Jihad was incarcerated for 23 years as a political prisoner for his involvement as a Black Panther Party member and member of the Black Liberation Army. He is currently co-chairperson for the National Jericho Amnesty Movement, a vanguard organization that supports domestic political prisoners or prisoners of war, and calls for their freedom, amnesty from prison. Jihad, welcome to the Real News. JIHAD ABDULMUMIT: Welcome, everybody. Thank you, my brother. Appreciate it. BALL: So I’m wondering if we could start with, with you just telling us, what is the Jericho movement, and who or what are political prisoners? ABDULMUMIT: The Jericho Movement was started in 1998, at which time I was incarcerated myself. It was started by Herman Ferguson, now deceased. Former–he was a former political prisoner, Jalil Abdul Muntaqim, who’s still incarcerated, I believe on his 44th year now in the Black Panther Party, and Safiya Bukhari, who is deceased also, and formerly a member of the Black Panther Party and a political prisoner. It started in 1998. The purpose of the organization is to campaign for the freedom of those that fought for our freedoms in the movements of the ’60s and the ’70s. Basically that’s what it is. And when–we define a political prisoner in this sense, as those have a disciplined ideological way forward against the capitalist system, and trying to establish our own government. We have a lot of political prisoners today. By nature of their incarceration it is political. Their consciousness, and at their conscious level may be astute enough, a lot of factors that would consider them to be political prisoners today. But the ones that we concentrate on are those that were actually part of movements from back in, as they say, quote-unquote, the day, and try to campaign for their freedom, most of which have been incarcerated for over four decades now. BALL: As I mention in the intro, there’s still some conversation, discussion, and some denial in this country as to the existence of political prisoners. Could you tell us a little bit more about how many there are remaining in this country, and what a little bit of that fight has been like to identify themselves as political prisoners, or to have the state itself recognize these prisoners as, as such? ABDULMUMIT: Yes. So hopefully over the programs that we have, and I really appreciate that we would be able to identify who the political prisoners are. Actually we have about 49 on our website now that we actively represent. But that does not mean that there aren’t more. The ones that we represent are ones that are, like I said, are from the movements from back in the day. The government does deny the existence of political prisoners, because to do so would be to indict itself with the racism, the exploitation, the degradation and oppression that existed, that we actually fought against. Same conditions that pretty much exist today, with police brutality. We see young black youth being shot down in the street. You know, the origin of the Black Panther Party was to, was to monitor and help people to defend their communities against this very same thing. Many of our prisoners are from the Black Panther Party. But we also have from the American Indian movement, Puerto Rican nationalists, anti-imperialists. The MOVE members. And so–but the government denies, this is a very big challenge now, given the span of four decades and a population that, that hears little about these prisoners. But it’s very important to link our freedom fighters that are incarcerated now with the movements that exist now. Because then what is the movement if we don’t know our own roots where we come from, our challenges, our successes, what the enemy did in opposing us. Because if we don’t know this, then I guess we won’t know what’s coming through the front door tomorrow in our efforts today. BALL: At his trial the judge for, formerly known as Anthony Bottom, but is Jalil Muntaqim as you mentioned. The judge said that he recognized that, that Jalil and others saw themselves as prisoners of war, and that the judge then said that we, meaning the state, would then treat you all as such. He acknowledged the status, or claimed status, of prisoners of war. Could you talk a little bit about what that means, to be a prisoner of war in addition to or in, in, you know, separately identified as a political prisoner? ABDULMUMIT: Right. A prisoner of war, one that actually took up arms to fight against oppression and fight against an entity, fight against the government, you know, in an attempt to gain the liberation of the people. And Jalil Abdul Muntaqim and other political prisoners definitely identify themselves as being POWs. But it’s such a, a blast of a contradiction. The government says, okay, we will treat you as such. Well, okay, we will treat you as such means that at this day and time, four decades later, treating them as such would mean that under the United Nations Human Rights Declaration they should be free now. Because to treat them as such means to acknowledge the conditions that they fought against, these being real conditions, given a span of four decades now, that they should be free, assuming that these conditions have changed. And we’ve challenged this on the international arena many, many times over the years in the United Nations and, United Nations and Switzerland and elsewhere. So yeah, the government is just, is just lying. They don’t treat them as such. Political–prisoner of war would be freed like any other countries free the [political] of war when those conditions have been, or those contradictions to society have been resolved. BALL: Jihad, just very quickly, I know that some of the critique of the claim that there are political prisoners in the United States is that all of the people that are usually identified as political prisoners have been officially convicted for some sort of crime, not political activity, giving the country, the state itself, the ability to deny the existence of political prisoners. ABDULMUMIT: Right. Well, that’s the out. The government, you know, calls us all criminals, really, even though in a statement about identifying them or recognizing them as POW, really they consider us all criminals. But I, my challenge is as far as the people, far as the masses of people understanding this, when you open up a book and you see a picture of Nat Turner, or Sojourner Truth, or Harriet Tubman, do you see a criminal, or do you see a hero? However you answer that question is how you see us, because the government would identify all of us as criminal in our fight for freedom, particularly when we fight staunchly and picking up weapons to defend ourselves. [It can’t be] wrong that they’re going to fight back. It is our right of self-determination and self-defense to fight back when genocide, which we’re talking about as programs continue, is being exacted upon our people. And that’s exactly what has been done over the centuries, from the time we’ve been brought here from West Africa up until this very moment. BALL: Well, Jihad Abdulmumit, we look forward to your forthcoming reports, and we thank you very much for joining us here at the Real News Network. ABDULMUMIT: The Real News Network is a blast. We appreciate you and we look forward to it every week, giving the updates on our political prisoners and connecting it with the movements of the present. BALL: Thank you. And thank you all for joining us, as well. And again, for all involved I’m Jared Ball here in Baltimore saying, as Fred Hampton used to say, to you we say peace if you’re willing to fight for it. So peace, everybody, and we’ll catch you in the whirlwind.
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