We the undersigned stand unequivocally against the passage, in Pennsylvania, of House Bill HB2533 on October 15, 2014 and PA Senate Bill SB508 on October 16, 2014. Because the bill was fast-tracked in the legislature, the Governor of Pennsylvania is already poised to sign the bill into law.
Known collectively as the “Revictimization Relief Act,” the laws affords virtually unlimited discretion to District Attorneys and the Attorney General to silence prisoner speech, by claiming that such speech causes victims’ families “mental anguish.” This law targets both prisoners' speech and supporters who sponsor that speech. Thus, under the guise of victim relief, politicians are claiming a power that if granted to them will be difficult if not impossible for citizens to check.
In seeking to silence the legally protected speech of prisoners the law establishes a precedent for the further erosion of First Amendment rights. In so violating prisoners’ speech, the state also damages citizens’ right and freedom to know —in this case, to consider the speech of the imprisoned to better understand an area of U.S. life physically removed from public scrutiny. The courts have consistently upheld the right of prisoners to constitutionally protected speech; with little success government and prison officials have sought to curtail that speech for political reasons, often claiming safety concerns.
“Victim relief,” while a worthy goal in itself, is only to be achieved by just verdict and the extension of due process to all parties involved. Victim relief is not served by denying fundamental rights to those convicted, especially because prisoner freedom of speech is crucial for redressing wrongful convictions and the current crisis of harsh sentencing that is often disproportionate to alleged crimes.
Our society is currently engaged in a full-scale debate on the problems of mass incarceration. This debate could not have grown without the articulation, by prisoners themselves in the press, exposing systemic violations of their rights in the courts and the dehumanizing conditions of prison life.
This legislation emerged as a politically-charged response, on the part of the Fraternal Order of Police and its political allies, because they failed to stop Pennsylvania prisoner and radio journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal from delivering his October 5, 2014 commencement address at Goddard College in Vermont, from where Abu-Jamal earned his BA in 1996 while on death row. Students at Goddard collectively chose Abu-Jamal as their commencement speaker and the administration supported the invitation. In this case, this law would deny the school the right to hear from its alum, Abu-Jamal.
To block Abu-Jamal’s free speech at Goddard College would have been a violation in itself. But this law goes further and sacrifices the rights of all prisoners in Pennsylvania in order to silence Abu-Jamal. This is an unethical deployment of collective punishment by those in power.
At stake in this legislation is the very premise on which U.S. democracy was erected — the notion that in order to achieve a robust engagement with and understanding of society and its problems, the state cannot be allowed to silence unpopular or dissenting voices. Instead of defending constitutional rights, Pennsylvania politicians appear to be far more interested in promoting their own interests and political vendettas. The Bill was debated in an atmosphere that reflected an unethical process riddled with political maneuverings, rather than fair and informed deliberation.
As PA Senator Daylin Leach confirmed in his vote against the legislation: "This is the most extreme violation of the First Amendment imaginable.” This law has a chilling effect that prevents any prisoner from speaking out on any issue for fear of a retaliatory civil suit.
This law, therefore, violates the public trust we expect from legislators. It is an attack on our freedom, a freedom that must be guarded — especially when and if officials do not agree with the content of speech they hear.
We oppose and protest Pennsylvania’s abuse of state power and its trampling of the fundamental human rights of all — of students to hear Abu-Jamal, of teachers and journalists to access perspectives of the imprisoned and, by extension, of everyone who deserves the free flow of information in society.
With the growing number of executions by the police across the country and the passage of flagrantly unconstitutional laws as seen in Pennsylvania, we the people have to organize collectively in our neighborhoods and in the streets to oppose the increasingly ominous display of rogue state power in Pennsylvania.
Join us in Philadelphia for a day of action on October 22, 2014. Press Conference at 12PM. Honk against the Bill at 4PM and Town Hall Meeting at 6:00PM.
International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal (ICFFMAJ)
National Lawyers Guild
Center for Constitutional Rights
Keith D. Cook, the Cook Family & Friends
Soffiyah Elijah, Executive Director of Correctional Association of New York
Frantz Fanon Foundation, France
Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal (EMAJ)
Campaign to Bring Mumia Home
Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition (NYC)
Riverside Church Prison Ministry
International Action Center/IAC
Netfa Freeman, Voices With Vision on WPFW 89.3 FM, Washington DC
German Network Against the Death Penalty and to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal
Committee to Save Mumia Abu-Jamal
National Jericho Movement
Students Against Mass Incarceration (SAMI)
Sankofa Community Empowerment
Mobilization to Free Abu-Jamal/Northern California
Didier Paillard, Maire (Mayor) de Saint-Denis (France)
Saint-Denis Mumia Committee
Le Collectif Français "Libérons Mumia”
Amig@s de Mumia de México
Linda Guillebeaux, Sekou Odinga Defense
International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5
Dave Lindorff, Journalist, Founding Editor of ThisCantBeHappening.net
Prison Action Network
Campaign to End the New Jim Crow
Resistance in Brooklyn
Megan Gabriel, The DC Childcare Collective
Workers World Party
David Swanson, Campaign Coordiantor of RootsAction.org
Carl Dix, Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
Komitee Free Mumia Wien, Austria
New York State Prisoner Justice Network
Attorney Michael Warren
New Jim Crow Movement, Florida
Megan Gabriel, The DC Childcare Collective
Resistance in Brooklyn
Free Marissa Now (FMN) Mobilizing Campaign
Will Miller Social Justice Lecture Series, Burlington, VT
Black Organizing for Leadership & Dignity (BOLD)
Samuel Légitimus, Collectif James Baldwin de Paris
Family & Friends of Incarcerated People (FFOIP)
Blue Carreker, Citizen Action of New York Campaign Manager
Askia Coalition Against Police Brutality
Human Rights Coalition-Philadelphia Chapter
Alice Sturm Sutter, North Manhattan Neighbors for Peace and Justice
Pinky Stanseski & Sophie Stanseski
Daniel Vila, Green Party Candidate
Kemah C. Washington
Global Women's Strike
Women of Color in the Global Women's Strike
Payday Men's Network
Organization for Black Struggle
This “Call to Action” is also a summons to all persons
of conscience to protest in Philadelphia, October 22, 2014.
To add your name to this call as an organization or individual email
For details see
Call to Action Against
The Silencing of Constitutionally
Protected Prisoner Speech in PA
National Campaign to Bring Mumia Home Launches Events in Philadelphia and New York December 7-9
On the weekend of December 7-9, 2013, the movement to free Mumia held a series of events marking the 32nd year of Mumia's incarceration and calling for his release. The activities include two youth forums, one in NY and one in Philly, a Yoga series titled 'Free Your Body, Free Your Mind, Free Mumia,' and a press conference announcing the official launch of the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home. The Philadelphia Weekly wrote a great piece on our weekend activities. Read about it here. The movement to free Mumia does not often receive love like this in the Philadelphia press, and this is a strong indication that the tides are changing in Mumia's favor!
Statement on Mumia-Mandela Link Goes Viral
In an attempt to connect the dots between Mandela and the moral assignment of our time: to free those who are incarcerated in the US because they fought for us in the past and because of their political beliefs -- Professor Johanna Fernandez wrote a short piece on the crisis of political imprisonment in the US that identified Mumia as the Mandela of our time. A friend of the movement forwarded her statement to the Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA). The IPA immediately turned this statement into a press release and before long, calls poured in from radio stations around the country that were were fascinated to hear the story of political imprisonment in the US. Mandela died, but his death has opened up an enormous opportunity for this movement. This is the moment to fight to free Mumia and all US political prisoners!!
Below is a brief list of media outlets that reached out:
1. Voice of Russia America
2. Morning show at WRHU-FM, a Central Long Island based community
3. Chris Askew at UnWrapped Radio, which airs on WRFG and is based out of Atlanta.
4. Also talked to a mainstream radio station with a white audience in Pittsburgh. From the sound of the commercials before going on air, Fernandez feared that it would be a hostile interview, but the host asked her hard but fair questions for a whole hour.
5. WORT Community Radio in Madison, WI
Chuck D Uses Performance as Platform to Support Mumia