Editor’s Note: Companion posts by Johanna Fernandez and Tigre Hill on Múmia Abu-Jamal are published today in conjunction with a program that will take place at the National Constitution Center on Friday, when the facility has been rented by the National Lawyers Guild. The program, organized and presented by the Guild, marks the 30th anniversary of the killing of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner and the incarceration of Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of the murder. Organizers of the event maintain Abu-Jamal’s innocence. This post first appeared on Nov. 29. On Wednesday prosecutors announced that they will no longer pursue the death penalty against Abu-Jamal, who will be re-sentenced to life in prison.
When I set out to make the film The Barrel of a Gun I figured that I would face a firestorm of criticism for daring to tell the facts in the story of Múmia Abu-Jamal and the murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner. I was prepared to follow the facts wherever they led me. If only I could say the same for Múmia’s supporters.
When I started researching the case, read the court transcript and interviewed people who prosecuted the case, I came to the conclusion that Múmia Abu-Jamal was indeed guilty and did receive a fair trial. My film presented the cold, hard facts about the murder of a Philadelphia police officer, but Múmia’s supporters never let the facts get in the way of a bad argument.
So 30 years later I ask Múmia’s disciples, how can you deny the evidence? Four eyewitnesses saw all or part of the shooting and identified Abu-Jamal as the killer.
Abu-Jamal was found at the scene of the crime with a gun that was registered in his name. Abu- Jamal’s brother, William Cook, was stopped by Officer Faulkner for a traffic violation at 3:50 am, and Abu-Jamal was just across the street at the time of the traffic stop. Múmia ran to his brother’s aid and shot the policeman once in the back and then stood over the wounded officer and fired point-blank into Daniel Faulkner’s face.
It is vitally important to note that William Cook has never testified on behalf of his brother. In my film I interviewed Cook’s attorney, Daniel Alva, who said that he encouraged Cook not to testify to in order to avoid being drawn into a capital murder case. Cook took Alva’s advice and chose not testify.
So I ask you, if your brother was accused of capital murder and you were a witness to his innocence, wouldn’t you try to save him? Where was the Philly brotherly love between William Cook and Múmia? Why didn’t William ever testify?
The facts underscoring Múmia’s guilt are overwhelming. But there is also Múmia’s motivations to consider, and I explored this extensively in my film. Consider that Abu-Jamal comes from a radical, Marxist communist background. He was a member at a young age of the Black Panther Party and he idolized mass- murderer Mao Tse Tung. Mao is responsible for the genocide of more than 50 million Chinese. Remember also that the Panthers wanted to foment a violent revolution in the United States to overthrow the capitalist, racist system and saw cop-killing as a form of empowerment.
Yes, the U.S. had severe racial problems at the time, but our biggest gains as African Americans came not from cop-killing, but from civil disobedience and the ballot box and by persuading fellow Americans to change discriminatory laws – that is the American way that Martin Luther King, Jr., championed. But Múmia did not embrace non-violence, he embraced the barrel of a gun.
After the Panthers imploded, Abu-Jamal became a fanatical supporter and follower of John Africa and the anarchist cult-group MOVE. Múmia lost several news reporter jobs for his advocacy of MOVE after they killed police officer James Ramp in 1978.
Although Múmia had no arrest record that stuck, he was no choir boy before the murder of Daniel Faulkner. In fact, former Daily News reporter Kitty Capprella has reported that Múmia and a group of MOVE supporters once surrounded and beat her in an empty City Hall courtroom in the late ‘70s.
On Dec. 9, the 30th anniversary of the murder of Daniel Faulkner, a group of pro-Múmia supporters will gather at the National Constitutional Center to tell more lies and mistruths about Múmia’s supposed innocence and how, they believe, this killer has been railroaded by a capitalist, racist system.
It is fitting that the pro-Múmia gang chose the National Constitution Center as a place to celebrate thier constitutional right of free speech. Ironically, several of the guest speakers scheduled to appear at the event are either Marxist, Socialist or just plain anti-capitalist. Like Múmia, some of his most ardent supports cite Chairman Mao, sport T-shirts featuring the likeness of communist Che Guevara and admire dictators like Fidel Castro. In their own countries, neither Mao nor Castro would ever have allowed their own people to speak out against the political system. In fact, protesters in those countries could be jailed or “disappear.” You have to wonder if Abu-Jamal’s supporters ever consider the irony? In their own warped minds I’m sure they don’t.
I have been attacked by Múmia’s supporters for daring to exercise my right of free expression to make this film. They’ve used hateful words against me, like “Uncle Tom, sell-out, a black right-wing wacko, an FOP stooge.” I have always presented the facts of this case to the public in the most honest and respectful manner possible. It speaks volumes that Múmia’s delusional supporters choose to personally attack me, attack the criminal justice system and advance unproven theories rather than face the truth.
Tigre Hill is a Philadelphia filmmaker, whose documentary The Barrel of a Gun, explores the Múmia Abu-Jamal controversy.