Mumia 911: 5 Other Political Prisoners You Should Be Familiar With
On October 13, 1999, marks the 17th anniversary when Pennsylvania’s governor, Tom Ridge, signed off on a second death warrant for Black Panther Party member, Mumia Abu-Jamal. Now, age 62, Abu-Jamal has had his death penalty sentence commuted to life imprisonment without parole for his alleged role in the 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. In the same year that his death warrant was signed (1995), Mumia Abu-Jamal’s book, Live From Death Row, helped to get the word out about the inaccuracies, racial bias and sequence of events that led to him being incarcerated.
Much like most from his generation, Mumia Abu-Jamal became heavily invested in black nationalism and used his bandwidth as a radio journalist to speak out about racial issues striking the country. It was on a fateful night, December 9, 1981, when Abu-Jamal’s brother, William Cook, was stopped by Officer Faulkner who pulled him over for a routine traffic stop. Abu-Jamal was found at the scene with a bullet wound from Faulkner’s gun and his own discharged revolver beside him. Abu-Jamal was arrested and charged with Faulkner’s murder. With all possible appeals exhausted, Abu-Jamal’s conviction made waves within the black community.
Activists, celebrities and liberal groups have continued throughout the decades in championing Mumia Abu-Jamal’s innocence. As perhaps “the world’s best known death-row inmate,” according to The New York Times, Mumia Abu-Jamal represents a litany of other political prisoners who comment on social and political issues. With that said, we are highlighting five other political prisoners that you should know about and support.
H. Rap Brown
Born as Hubert Gerold Brown, the man also known as Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin or H. Rap Brown, was a chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s. He is most famous for his proclamation that “violence is as American as cherry pie,” and proclaimed that “if America don’t come around, we’re gonna burn it down.” A member of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List after avoiding trial on charges of inciting riot and of carrying a gun across state lines, Brown’s eventually was conviction in 2000 of shooting two Fulton County Sheriff deputies and is currently serving a life sentence for murder.
Rubin “Hurricane” Carter
Sure, you might be familiar with the movie starring Denzel Washington, or sung the song by Bob Dylan, but Rubin “Hurricane” Carter was a force inside and out of jail. Wrongfully imprisoned for 19 years due to “an appeal to racism rather than reason,” Carter was arrested for a triple-homicide in Paterson, New Jersey. A middleweight champion boxer, police found ammunition that fit the weapons used in the crime, but failed to take any fingerprints at the crime scene and lacked the facilities to conduct a paraffin test for gunshot residue. His subsequent imprisonment caught the activism and entertainment world’s attention, and petitions of habeas corpus enabled Carter to have his conviction overturned after spending almost 20 years in prison.
A black nationalist, a proponent of the Republic of New Afrika, the step-father of Tupac Shakur and a close friend of Geronimo Pratt — Mutulu Shakur was convicted in a plot by COINTELPRO to disrupt families who were a part of the Black Panther or civil rights movement. Shakur, who allegedly robbed a Brinks armored truck in New York of $1.6 million and killed two police officers, was part of an illegal project by the FBI and COINTELPRO. As a target, along with Joanne Chesimard (Assata Shakur), Mutulu and many of his comrades were under the watchful eye of Big Brother. Currently, the 66-year-old is incarcerated at a penitentiary in Adelanto, California for conspiracy to aid bank expropriation, not the actual robbery.
A high-ranking member of the Black Panther Party, the FBI targeted him specifically in a COINTELPRO operation which aimed to “neutralize Pratt as an effective BPP functionary.” The conviction was later vacated on June 10, 1997, on the grounds that the prosecution had concealed evidence that might have influenced the jury’s verdict. Surveillance records and wire taps were a part of the COINTELPRO, which tipped the scales and made Geronimo Pratt to not have a fair trial. Those pieces of evidence have since disappeared. Upon being released from prison in July 24, 1997, Pratt saw his mother, continued to work on behalf of men and women wrongfully incarcerated (including Mumia Abu-Jamal) and left the U.S. in favor of living in Tanzania where he passed away in 2011.
An activist, a former Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army member, Assata Shakur was convicted of several crimes and was the subject of a multi-state manhunt. If you’ve listened to Common‘s “A Song For Assata,” the story is easily recallable. She was accused and convicted of killing New Jersey State Trooper Wener Foerster and assaulting Trooper James Harper. They indicted her on six other incidents—murder, attempted murder, armed robbery, bank robbery and kidnapping—which ended with three acquittals and three dismissals. When she was placed in Clinton Correctional, she eventually escaped on November 2, 1979. She went on the run and eventually fled the country, landing in Cuba in 1984, where she received political asylum. It is where she is until this day, providing much strife and stress to those here (such as Gov. Chris Christie) who believe that she is a domestic terrorist and rightfully earns the distinction of being the first woman to be listed on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist List.
To continue to learn more about these political prisoners, please watch all these videos and check out your local library for more information!