The movement demanding the release of Mumia Abu-Jamal from prison has been renewed amid concerns for the health of the convicted cop-killer who was found guilty decades ago under questionable circumstances.
Activists and supporters of Abu-Jamal claim he has contracted COVID-19 and are pushing for both his hospitalization as well as his release after nearly 40 years behind bars.
A protest took place over the weekend in Philadelphia as demonstrators called for the city’s district attorney, Larry Krasner, to help facilitate the immediate release, treatment and hospitalization of Abu-Jamal, 67. They say Abu-Jamal “needs medical attention now.”
There were no immediate reports verifying the claim that Abu-Jamal has tested positive for the coronavirus.
However, there has been success in other states to release prisoners based on health concerns in jails and prisons, which have effectively become superspreader hot spots across the country.
Activist Pam Africa told the Philadelphia Inquirer that Abu-Jamal has COVID-19 symptoms.
“His breathing is challenging, and he’s afraid his lungs will be compromised,” said Africa, who added that she first learned of Abu-Jamal’s condition Friday night.
If true, Abu-Jamal’s age compounds the heightened risk he already faces as a prisoner and as a Black person, since COVID-19 has disproportionately affected minorities.
The CDC says older adults face a “greater risk of requiring hospitalization or dying if diagnosed with COVID-19.”
This is the latest effort to get Abu-Jamal released from prison.
In November, free-agent NFL quarterback and social justice activist Colin Kaepernick joined the decades-long calls for Abu-Jamal’s freedom.
“We’re in the midst of a movement that says Black Lives Matter. If that is the case, then Mumia’s life and freedom must matter,” Kaepernick said during a pre-recorded video statement alongside groups that included Black Lives Matter Philadelphia, Mobilization 4 Mumia and the Black Philly Radical Collective. “Even while living in the hells of the prison system, Mumia still fights for our human rights. We must continue to fight for him and his human rights.”
Born Wesley Cook, the activist, journalist and member of the Black Panther Party was behind the wheel of his taxi in Philadelphia just before 4 a.m. on Dec. 9, 1981, when police officer Daniel Faulkner conducted a traffic stop of a light blue Volkswagen. His brother, William “Billy” Cook, was the driver. Abu-Jamal, parked just across the street, approached the scene. Within minutes he had been shot in the chest and Faulkner had been shot dead. Abu-Jamal was arrested as the accused perpetrator.
The details of precisely how those fateful minutes unfolded remain one of the most debated accounts in recent criminal justice history. However, since his conviction in 1982, there has arguably been enough evidence stacking on the side of those who maintain Abu-Jamal’s innocence that entire books, movies, and fashions have been dedicated to the Free Mumia cause.