FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Suppression of Dissent in America

In presenting a compelling examination of the plight of death row journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal the documentary “In Prison My Whole Life” also probes one of the deeper contradictions of America: persistent suppression of dissent.

For a nation that extols the provisions of the First Amendment, politicians and police have histories of running roughshod over the rights of citizens to exercise their constitutional freedoms of speech, assembly and presenting grievances to government.

The recent actions against peaceful demonstrators and non-mainstream journalists by federal and local law enforcement personnel during the Republican National Convention in St Paul, Minnesota is yet another example of suppression of dissent.

Amnesty International is among the organizations condemning the assaults and arrests at the Republican Convention, terming that use of force and mass arrests excessive.

Amnesty International has officially endorsed “In Prison My Whole Life” – the first time this respected human rights organization ever placed its imprimatur on a film.

This well received documentary that premiered simultaneously last October 25th at the London and Rome Film Festivals focuses on the journey of one young man – William Francome – to discover more about the death row inmate arrested on the day he was born.

Francome’s birthday is December 9, 1981 – the day Abu-Jamal was arrested for murdering of a Philadelphia policeman. Francome’s American-born mother followed the Abu-Jamal case, reminding her son on each of his birthdays about the man languishing on death-row for a conviction based on what the AI report determined was a grossly unfair trial.

The film follows Francome across America from New York City to California’s Bay Area in his journey to discover more about the Abu-Jamal case and related issues like racism, class prejudice and suppression of dissent.

“In Prison My Whole Life” will have two screening in New York City at the Urbanworld Film Festival – on Thursday 9/11 and Saturday 9/13. Additionally, a screening is set for 9/26 at the CR10 Conference in Oakland, California.

The only previous US screening of this documentary occurred this past January during the Sundance Film Festival.

In 2000, Amnesty International authored the comprehensive yet concise report on the Abu-Jamal case that presented a unique examination of unethical and suspect conduct by the Pa Supreme Court in this controversial case – newsworthy material that the US news media buried.

Only two American daily newspapers carried articles on that news-laden AI report according to the NEXUS newspaper database and both of those articles were ‘news briefs.’ The news brief on the AI report published by the Philadelphia Inquirer in Abu-Jamal’s hometown was the fifth of six items in the B Section, listed below reporting on two non-fatal shootings, a small nightclub fire and a proposal to ban cell phone use while driving.

The Abu-Jamal case is fraught with suppression of dissent.

Incidents of suppression include the well publicized 1994 action by police and politicians forcing NPR to cancel airing prison commentaries by the award-winning journalist, the little known 2000 federal imprisonment of a leading Abu-Jamal activist for speaking at an anti-death penalty rally during the GOP national convention held that year in Philadelphia and 2007 strong-arming by Philadelphia’s police union to block a pro-Abu-Jamal program.

Francome’s “In Prison My Whole Life” interviews include Noam Chomsky, Angela Davis, Mos Def, Snoop Dog and Alice Walker – famed persons who’ve endured violations of their First Amendment rights.

This documentary also presents the first film interview with Abu-Jamal’s brother, Billy Cook. The slain officer’s beating of Cook during a traffic stop allegedly triggered the shooting. Cook shows a head scar he still carries from that beating. Cook also confirms the presence of his close friend long suspected by some as the person who fatally shot the officer.

Producers for the documentary are acclaimed British actor Colin Firth and his wife Livia Giuggioli who enlisted renowned director Marc Evans.

Producer Livia Giuggioli, during a recent interview with Hans Bennett, said intense passions displayed by advocates and enemies of Abu-Jamal is one of the things that interested them about pursuing this project.

“This is what really fascinated us all when we started to approach the subject and research,” said Giuggioli who lives in London.

“If you detach everything from this “figure” you just find a man who has been a victim of politics more than anything else,” Giuggioli noted echoing a conclusion of the 2000 AI report that politics had polluted judicial rulings in the Abu-Jamal case.

“In Prison” presents extraordinary evidence pointing to Abu-Jamal’s innocence inclusive of crime scene photographs discovered in 2006 that contradict core elements of the prosecution’s case against the man whose written five books while on death row.

The photos, for example, show no bullet marks in the sidewalk where prosecutors declared Abu-Jamal shot into the sidewalk around the fallen officer three times before shooting him once in the face. The photos show no cab behind the officer’s squad car where prosecutors told jurors a cab driver observed the murder. Additionally, the photos show police tampering with evidence at the crime scene.

A consultant for the documentary, German professor Dr. Michael Schiffmann, located these photos shot by a Philadelphia news photographer who arrived at the shooting scene minutes after the crime.

Schiffmann published the 2006 book “Race Against Death” one of the two most thorough examinations of the Abu-Jamal case. The other book is “Killing Time” by Philadelphia-area investigative reporter Dave Lindorff. Both Schiffmann and Lindorff have “In Prison” appearances, walking Francome through various aspects of the Abu-Jamal case in Philadelphia.

“Hopefully the film will help people to think and realize that maybe there is more to the story,” Giuggioli said. “Until there is a proper new trial – Mumia is just a man who has been sitting in solitary confinement for 27-years and it is a disgrace.”

The Abu-Jamal case is presently heading for an appeal to the US Supreme Court after the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this year rejected a request for a new hearing, principally on the issue of racial discrimination during the selection of the jury at Abu-Jamal’s 1982 trial.

That Third Circuit ruling created new standards for jury discrimination appeals that are more stringent than standards established by the US Supreme Court. That 2000 Amnesty International report faulted courts for improperly creating new legal standards to deny justice to Abu-Jamal.

Linn Washington Jr. is a Philadelphia journalist who’s followed the Abu-Jamal case since 1981. Washington appears briefly in the “In Prison” documentary talking about police brutality in Philadelphia.

 

Your Ad Here

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Linn Washington, Jr. is a founder of This Can’t Be Happening and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He lives in Philadelphia.

Weekend Edition
July 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Atwood
Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick
Paul Street
No Liberal Rallies Yet for the Children of Yemen
Nick Pemberton
The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Are You Putin Me On?
Andrew Levine
Sovereignty: What Is It Good For? 
Brian Cloughley
The Trump/NATO Debacle and the Profit Motive
David Rosen
Trump’s Supreme Pick Escalates America’s War on Sex 
Melvin Goodman
Montenegro and the “Manchurian Candidate”
Salvador   Rangel
“These Are Not Our Kids”: The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border
Matthew Stevenson
Going Home Again to Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Dilemmas of the Left
Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People”
Robert Fantina
Has It Really Come to This?
Russell Mokhiber
Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen
John W. Whitehead
It’s All Fake: Reality TV That Masquerades as American Politics
Patrick Bobilin
In Your Period Piece, I Would be the Help
Ramzy Baroud
The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched and Held Responsible
Robert Fisk
How Weapons Made in Bosnia Fueled Syria’s Bleak Civil War
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference and Public Disgrace
Josh Hoxie
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Martha Rosenberg
Pharma “Screening” Is a Ploy to Seize More Patients
Basav Sen
Brett Kavanaugh Would be a Disaster for the Climate
David Lau
The Origins of Local AFT 4400: a Profile of Julie Olsen Edwards
Rohullah Naderi
The Elusive Pursuit of Peace by Afghanistan
Binoy Kampmark
Shaking Establishments: The Ocasio-Cortez Effect
John Laforge
18 Protesters Cut Into German Air Base to Protest US Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and the Swedish Question
Chia-Chia Wang
Local Police Shouldn’t Collaborate With ICE
Paul Lyons
YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study
Jill Richardson
Soon You Won’t be Able to Use Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets, But That’s Not the Half of It
Kevin MacKay
Climate Change is Proving Worse Than We Imagined, So Why Aren’t We Confronting its Root Cause?
Thomas Knapp
Elections: More than Half of Americans Believe Fairy Tales are Real
Ralph Nader
Warner Slack—Doctor for the People Forever
Lee Ballinger
Soccer, Baseball and Immigration
Louis Yako
Celebrating the Wounds of Exile with Poetry
Ron Jacobs
Working Class Fiction—Not Just Surplus Value
Perry Hoberman
You Can’t Vote Out Fascism… You Have to Drive It From Power!
Robert Koehler
Guns and Racism, on the Rocks
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir: Implementation with Integrity and Will to Resolve
Justin Anderson
Elon Musk vs. the Media
Graham Peebles
A Time of Hope for Ethiopia
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Homophobia in the Service of Anti-Trumpism is Still Homophobic (Even When it’s the New York Times)
Martin Billheimer
Childhood, Ferocious Sleep
David Yearsley
The Glories of the Grammophone
Tom Clark
Gameplanning the Patriotic Retributive Attack on Montenegro
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail