Updates: Mumi Abu-Jamal, Rasmea Odeh, Marissa Alexander

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Silence Mumia Abu-Jamal? Never!

“Social change and social transformation form the raison d’etre of Goddard.”

Mumia Abu-Jamal spoke these revolutionary words by phone from his prison cell during his commencement speech to Goddard College on Oct. 4, 2014.

Abu-Jamal, a renowned journalist skilled at exposing crimes of the U.S. “justice” system, was framed for the killing of Officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981, and sentenced by a judge who vowed to “fry that n––––r.” Now, Faulkner’s widow Maureen claims she’s upset that Mumia, a “radical who hates America,” is allowed to speak to journalists and the public. That’s why the day after Mumia’s speech, Tom Corbett, Pennsylvania’s outgoing Republican governor, introduced the Revictimization Relief Act of 2014. The Act criminalizes public speech by offenders that causes “mental anguish” and punishes any journalist who quotes such speech.

This new law reveals an appalling trend by cops trying to gag those who publicly criticize the U.S. justice system, especially political radicals. In December 2014, St. Louis police demanded an apology from five St. Louis Rams players who entered the field with their hands up, a gesture cops deemed “offensive, tasteless, and inflammatory.”

Notably, not Faulkner, Corbett, or the St. Louis cops have tried to ban bigoted speech by the KKK or Westboro Baptist church to protect the feelings of their victims. This shows that Pennsylvania’s lofty Revictimization Relief Act has nothing to do with helping victims, and everything to do with silencing political dissent. (For more information, visit prisonradio.org.)

Rasmea Odeh home — for now

On March 12, 2015, in a courtroom filled to capacity with her supporters, Rasmea Odeh was sentenced to 18 months in prison, given a $1,000 fine, had her U.S. citizenship revoked and faces possible deportation. She remains free on bond pending her appeal.

Odeh, a longtime Palestinian-American community leader, has been battling trumped-up charges of falsifying answers on her immigration application over a decade ago. She was found guilty in November 2014. On hearing the conviction, Rasmea remained clear and defiant and denounced the verdict as racist. Judge Gershwin Drain cynically revoked Rasmea’s bond and she was immediately hauled off to prison.

Rasmea was thrown into solitary confinement for three weeks when she talked about her case with other inmates. Rallies and protests erupted in her home town of Chicago, then across the country, as activists recognized the verdict as a broad attack on anti-war dissenters and all who dare to speak out against Israel’s racist Zionist regime. Eventually Odeh was released on bond.

In stark contrast, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the butcher of Gaza, was recently granted an unprecedented forum to speak to the U.S. Congress — campaigning for support through outrageous Islamophobic remarks and Biblical references. Clearly, in the USA a brutal head of state from afar can speak freely and get publicity, but not a widely respected U.S. citizen speaking for the long afflicted Palestinians.

Understanding her arrest as part of a larger political witch-hunt, Rasmea credited organized support with blocking the government’s attempt to send her to prison for five to seven years. The fight for full justice continues. To help, visit Justice4Rasmea.org.

Marissa Alexander released from prison

On January 27, Marissa Alexander, a Black mother of three and domestic abuse survivor, served her last day behind bars for firing a warning shot to stop an attack by her abusive husband. Her plea agreement requires she serve two more years of house arrest with an ankle monitor. On the steps of the courthouse, she expressed her gratitude to those who stood by her over the past few years.

Due to the organizing of thousands of individuals and groups like Free Marissa Now and Radical Women, Alexander’s original 20-year conviction was overturned. Supporters then fought for a full acquittal. But the state relentlessly pursued Alexander, threatening a 60-year sentence if a jury found her guilty at a second trial. So, in the end, she accepted a deal.

Justice was not served in this case, as it so frequently isn’t for women of color and those battered by their partners. In the racist and sexist U.S. legal system, prosecutors employ stereotypes of “belligerent” Black women to paint those who defend themselves as the aggressors. What is needed is systemic change that says Black women’s lives matter. A start would be massive increases in services for women of color fleeing violence and the elimination of mandatory minimum sentencing.

To listen to this and other articles from this issue, click here.

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