Workers Vanguard No. 1124
15 December 2017
The following article appeared under the Partisan Defense Committee's Class-Struggle Defense Notes masthead in the print version of this issue of Workers Vanguard. The PDC is a class-struggle, non-sectarian legal and social defense organization which champions cases and causes in the interest of the whole of the working people. This purpose is in accordance with the political views of the Spartacist League.
32nd Annual Holiday Appeal
Free the Class-War Prisoners!
(Class-Struggle Defense Notes)
This year’s Holiday Appeal marks the 32nd year of the Partisan Defense Committee’s program of sending monthly stipends as an expression of solidarity to those imprisoned for standing up to racist capitalist repression and imperialist depredation. This program revived a tradition initiated by the International Labor Defense under James P. Cannon, its founder and first secretary (1925-28). This year’s events will pay tribute to a former stipend recipient, Lynne Stewart, who succumbed to the effects of metastasized breast cancer last March. A courageous radical lawyer who defended numerous poor people and fighters for the oppressed, including the Ohio 7, Stewart had been incarcerated for her vigorous defense of a fundamentalist sheik who was convicted in an alleged plot to blow up New York City landmarks. We honor her by keeping up the fight for the freedom of all class-war prisoners. The PDC currently sends stipends to 12 class-war prisoners.
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Mumia Abu-Jamal is a former Black Panther Party spokesman, a well-known supporter of the MOVE organization and an award-winning journalist known as “the voice of the voiceless.” Framed up for the 1981 killing of a Philadelphia police officer, Mumia was sentenced to death explicitly for his political views. Federal and state courts have repeatedly refused to consider evidence proving Mumia’s innocence, including the sworn confession of Arnold Beverly that he, not Mumia, shot and killed the policeman. In 2011 the Philadelphia district attorney’s office dropped its longstanding effort to legally lynch Mumia, condemning him to life in prison with no chance of parole. Last year attorneys for Mumia filed a petition under Pennsylvania’s Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) seeking to overturn the denial of his three prior PCRA claims by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. If successful, he would be granted a new hearing before that court to argue for reversal of his frame-up conviction. On September 7, Judge Leon Tucker ordered a private review of the complete file of the prosecution by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office of Mumia’s case, looking for evidence of the personal involvement of then D.A. Ronald Castille, whose refusal as a judge to recuse himself during Mumia’s PA Supreme Court appeal is the basis for this PCRA. After a two-year battle, Mumia was finally able to begin lifesaving treatment for hepatitis C. In May, lab tests showed that he was free of this life-threatening illness. But the drawn-out period during which he was refused treatment left him with an increased risk of liver cancer.
Leonard Peltier is an internationally renowned class-war prisoner. Peltier’s incarceration for his activism in the American Indian Movement has come to symbolize this country’s racist repression of its Native peoples, the survivors of centuries of genocidal oppression. Peltier was framed up for the 1975 deaths of two FBI agents marauding in what had become a war zone on the South Dakota Pine Ridge Reservation. The lead government attorney has admitted, “We can’t prove who shot those agents,” and the courts have repeatedly denied Peltier’s appeals while acknowledging blatant prosecutorial misconduct. Before leaving office, Barack Obama rejected Peltier’s request for clemency. The 73-year-old Peltier is not scheduled for another parole hearing for another seven years. Peltier suffers from multiple serious medical conditions including a heart condition for which he had to undergo triple bypass surgery. He is incarcerated far from his people and family.
Seven MOVE members—Chuck Africa, Michael Africa, Debbie Africa, Janet Africa, Janine Africa, Delbert Africa and Eddie Africa—are in their 40th year of prison. After the 8 August 1978 siege of their Philadelphia home by over 600 heavily armed cops, they were sentenced to 30-100 years, having been falsely convicted of killing a police officer who died in the cops’ own cross fire. In 1985, eleven of their MOVE family members, including five children, were massacred by Philly cops when a bomb was dropped on their living quarters. Collectively known as the MOVE 9, two of their number, Merle Africa and Phil Africa, died in prison under suspicious circumstances. After nearly four decades of unjust incarceration, these innocent prisoners are routinely turned down at parole hearings.
Jaan Laaman and Thomas Manning are the two remaining anti-imperialist activists known as the Ohio 7 still in prison, convicted for their roles in a radical group that took credit for bank “expropriations” and bombings of symbols of U.S. imperialism, such as military and corporate offices, in the late 1970s and ’80s. Before their arrests in 1984 and 1985, the Ohio 7 were targets of massive manhunts. Now Laaman and Manning face prison torture where they are isolated in solitary confinement for extended periods. Manning has been deprived of necessary medical attention. The Ohio 7’s politics were once shared by thousands of radicals but, like the Weathermen before them, the Ohio 7 were spurned by the “respectable” left. From a proletarian standpoint, the actions of these leftist activists against imperialism and racist injustice are not crimes. They should not have served a day in prison.
Ed Poindexter is a former Black Panther supporter and leader of the Omaha, Nebraska, National Committee to Combat Fascism. He and his former co-defendant, Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa, who died in prison last year, were victims of the FBI’s deadly COINTELPRO operation, under which 38 Black Panther Party members were killed and hundreds more imprisoned on frame-up charges. They were railroaded to prison and sentenced to life for a 1970 explosion that killed a cop, and Poindexter has now spent more than 45 years behind bars. Nebraska courts have repeatedly denied Poindexter a new trial despite the fact that crucial evidence, long suppressed by the FBI, proved that testimony of the state’s key witness was perjured.
Contribute now! All proceeds from the Holiday Appeal events will go to the Class-War Prisoners Stipend Fund. This is not charity but an elementary act of solidarity with those imprisoned for their opposition to racist capitalism and imperialist depredation. Send your contributions to: PDC, P.O. Box 99, Canal Street Station, New York, NY 10013; (212) 406-4252.