â€œOccupy the Department of Justiceâ€ Demands Release of Mumia Abu Jamal, End to Mass Incarceration
Rally held outside Department of Justice followed by march through Downtown DC and civil disobedience arrests at White House
VOICEOVER: On Tuesday, April 24th, hundreds of demonstrators rallied at the Department of Justice in downtown Washington, demanding the immediate release of Mumia Abu Jamal, considered by many to be a prominent black political prisoner, as well as calling for an end to mass incarceration in the United States. Mumia was convicted in the 1981 shooting death of a Philadelphia police officer and sentenced to death row in 1982. Mumia and many others have maintained his innocence, suggesting he was set up by a Philadelphia police force that was already under federal investigation for corruption and widespread civil rights violations, with 15 of the 35 officers involved in the evidence collection in Mumiaâ€™s case convicted and sentenced to jail on a number of misconduct charges. Activist and professor Johanna Fernandez has been involved with Mumiaâ€™s case and helped to organize Tuesdayâ€™s event. She says that the immediate focus of the occupy action is to release Mumia, but that the long term battle is to end to mass incarceration in the United States criminal justice system and push for increased social spending.
JOHANNA FERNANDEZ, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, BARUCH COLLEGE, CUNY: We are here to say that incarceration has nothing to do with solving the problems of American society it has everything to do with putting people in their place repressing people and itâ€™s time for this to end, we want jobs, education, health care, we do not want jailsâ€¦right now the United States represents 5 percent of the worldâ€™s population but we incarcerate 25 percent of the worldâ€™s prisoners, this in a nation thatâ€™s obsessed with the idea of freedom, the question is why, why do we incarcerate so many people than other places in the world, we clearly donâ€™t have the answers so we are here to say we have to stand up for people like Mumia Abu Jamal.
VOICEOVER: Mumia Abu Jamal was removed from death row in 2011 following a number of court appeals, but remains imprisoned for life without the possibility of parole. A number of performers also participated in Tuesdayâ€™s rally, including activist and rapper Chuck D of Public Enemy and M1 of the revolutionary hip hop duo Dead Prez. M1 explains that demonstrators are not only demanding justice for Mumia, but for a number of other political prisoners and victims of police racism and violence.
M1, DEAD PREZ: Behind me on the wall it says this place is a place of hallowed justice, it should say this is a place of hollow justice, thereâ€™s no justice weâ€™re right in front of the injustice department because for over 40 years weâ€™ve seen Mumia Abu Jamal get no justice, weâ€™ve seen Eddy Conway, weâ€™ve seen Mutulu Shakur, weâ€™ve seen Herman Bell, weâ€™ve seen Jalil Muntaqim, and countless other colonial subjects shot down by the police department inside this country, no justice, weâ€™re here today to demand that, the occupy movement and the understanding of what we have at stake today has permeated this particular event, and weâ€™re occupying the justice department.
VOICEOVER: Malik Rhasaan is the founder of Occupy the Hood, a grassroots organization started shortly after the inception of Occupy Wall Street that seeks to bring attention to the social pressures facing black and Latino communities. Malik explains how recent high profile cases like the shooting death of Trayvon Martin and the emerging Occupy Movement have broadened the discussion of everyday issues facing black communities that they have been organizing around for decades.
MALIK RHASAAN, OCCUPY THE HOOD: A lot of people said the Mumia case is broader the Trayvon case is broader the Ramarley Graham case is broader, itâ€™s everyday for us, so the fact that one takes precedent over another, for example if we were able to free Mumia Abu Jamal that would open up cases for so many others, so I really donâ€™t have an issue with names like Trayvon, names like Ramarley Graham taking the forefront because itâ€™s regular for us Trayvon is not new to us itâ€™s been happening and weâ€™re kind of happy itâ€™s been brought to the forefront because for a long time itâ€™s been hidden.
VOICEOVER: After the Department of Justice headquarters rally, protestors marched through the streets of downtown before arriving to the White House, where 2 dozen activists were arrested in an act of civil disobedience. Activists are organizing a project they are calling the â€œLiberation Summer,â€ which aims to mobilize around issues of criminalization and mass incarceration affecting poor communities of color and immigrants.