Down with the Racist Death Penalty!
On Saturday, November 7, workers in Volta Redonda, Brazil demonstrated to demand "Freedom Now for Mumia Abu-Jamal!" and "Down with the Racist Death Penalty!" Initiated by the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil (LQB), section of the League for the Fourth International, the rally was held in front of Latin America's largest steel plant. Speakers spoke at a monument to three workers killed when the army intervened against the militant 1988 steel strike. Publicized through a leaflet, radio interviews and a powerful sound truck provided by the Construction Workers Union, the protest of several dozen drew steel and municipal workers and other unionists, as well as black activists and students from area schools. The internationalist protest was held on the 81st anniversary of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.
A huge banner bearing Mumia's portrait and the demand for his freedom dominated the plaza. A highlight of the rally was a performance of capoeira, the martial art invented by Brazilian slaves. Speakers included a popular local radio host, a representative of the Green Party and a spokesman for the Palmares Club, named after the "Palmares Republic" founded by 17th-century slave revolt leader Zumbi. Noting that his group had walked three miles from the working-class Água Limpa neighborhood to the rally, a speaker from the Warriors of Água Limpa cultural association stressed Mumia's history as a spokesman for the Black Panther Party. Many of the speeches linked the international fight for Jamal's life and freedom to the struggle against racist oppression and police terror in Brazil, recalling massacres of black street children, landless peasants and prisoners, as well as killings of homosexuals and widespread forced sterilization of black and Indian women.
Addressing the rally was Class Struggle Caucus (CLC) spokesman Geraldo Ribeiro, who led the fight in 1996 to expel guardas (city police) from the municipal workers union. LQB and CLC signs demanded the expulsion of cops of all kinds from all unions and the CUT labor federation. Ribeiro noted: "This is an international event demanding freedom now for Mumia Abu-Jamal. Today is also the tenth anniversary of the beginning of the metal workers' strike at the National Steel Company, where the strikers William, Valmir and Barroso were murdered by the same capitalist system that wants to kill Mumia Abu-Jamal."
LQB speeches called on the labor movement in Brazil and worldwide to throw its enormous social power into the fight to save Mumia. They also underscored the need for a revolutionary workers party to lead the struggle to smash the starvation plan of austerity measures being imposed by Brazilian president Cardoso and the International Monetary Fund, and for proletarian opposition to the popular front which chains Brazilian labor to capitalist politicians (and governs the municipality of Volta Redonda).
On November 9, some 500 workers demonstrated at the monument to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the army massacre against the steel strikrs. The LQB organized a contingent with a banner demanding that Mumia Abu-Jamal be immediately freed. In his speech to the rally, the national leader of the CUT labor federation, Vicentinho, noted Saturday's rally for Jamal and called on workers to join the campaign for his freedom. The next day, another local radio station broadcast a program on the international campaign for Mumia, including interviews with spokesmen of the LQB, the CLC and the Internationalist Group.
The following is translated from the special supplement to Vanguarda Operária, (5 November 1998), newspaper of the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil.
the Power of the Working Class to
A demonstration will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, November 7, in Volta Redonda's Juarez Antunes Plaza to demand: Freedom Now for Mumia Abu-Jamal! Down with the Racist Death Penalty! Participate and join in the protest to stop U.S. imperialism from murdering this courageous fighter against injustice! Today, this struggle is more urgent than ever.
Mumia Abu-Jamal, former Black Panther and renowned black journalist, has spent 16 years on death row in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. His case has become the focus of the fight against the racist death penalty in the United States and internationally. Last week, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected Mumia's appeal for a new trial. Now, the governor may sign a death warrant at any moment.
The courts and police want to silence forever this eloquent spokesman for the oppressed, known as the "voice of the voiceless." The racist ruling class says that Mumia Abu-Jamal must die. We say that Mumia must live!
In 1981 Mumia Abu-Jamal was found near death after being shot by the police. His "crime" was that he survived and continued to speak the truth. So he was framed up on the charge of killing a police officer, and a right-wing judge sentenced Mumia to death as part of the system of "legal" lynching and police terror against oppressed minorities. Today, it is the exploited and oppressed who must stop the oppressors who want to murder Mumia. The last time a death warrant was signed against him, in 1995, a wave of protests around the world stayed the hand of the racist bourgeoisie. Unions representing millions of workers have spoken out for Mumia, including many from South Africa, dockers in the U.S., journalists in Brazil and else where. In Volta Redonda, more than 200 people participated in the proletarian protest at the Monument to Zumbi [leader of Brazil's most famous slave revolt], which was called by Luta Metalúrgica, predecessor of the LQB, together with the municipal workers and other groups and sectors.
The fight for Mumia's life and freedom is a crucial part of the world-wide fight against racism and capitalist repression. In Brazil it is part of the fight against the racist extermination of street children, forced sterilization of black women, the murder of homosexuals, massacres of landless peasants and daily repression by racist capitalism's armed fist: the police. Writing about the struggle against slavery in Brazil, Mumia declared: "Zumbi is one of my heroes." In the U.S. the racist death penalty is a legacy of slavery, and the international fight for its abolition has as its focus the struggle to free Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Today, it has been shown once again that there is no justice in the capitalist courts, nor can there be, for fighters for black liberation. In this crucial hour, we must mobilize the power of the organized working class, of all the victims of the system of racist injustice, to demand immediate and unconditional freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal. Participate and bring your friends, neighbors, fellow workers and classmates: Saturday, November 7, 11 a.m. in the Juarez Antunes Plaza. Down with legal lynching! Abolish the racist death penalty! Freedom NOW for Mumia Abu-Jamal!
Volta Redonda, 5 November 1998
Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil
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