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Mumia Abu-Jamal's Radio Essays

Commentaries by the award-winning journalist and activist Mumia Abu-Jamal
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Mumia Abu-Jamal's Radio Essays
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Now displaying: Page 1
Dec 2, 2006
It's boy's night out, and a group of brothers are having a bachelor's party at a neighborhood club. One of them is particularly thrilled, because his marriage to the woman he loves is just hours away. But he will never marry, because a pack of wild, undercover cops will execute him, and unleash a deadly rain of 50 bullets on he and his friends. The crime? Cruising While Black ... Sean Bell, unarmed, was 23. And the corporate media merely explains it may've been a case of "contagious" shooting -- one cop fires, two cops fire, three cops ... get the picture? It's a kind of social illness, like alcoholism. But neither Sean Bell, Trent Benefield, nor Joseph Guzman were armed. According to some reports, one of them *said* he was armed. Like the madmen who launched a preemptive war on the unsubstantiated suspicion of weapons of mass destruction, undercover cops launched an urban preemptive war on unarmed young Black men, reportedly based on unsubstantiated suspicions. *50 shots*. Death, and serious injury. No cellphones; no wallets; no threatening candy bars -- for such trifles are no longer deemed necessary. In America, blackness is sufficient. Even maleness isn't required, as shown by the recent shooting of an elderly woman who allegedly allowed a drug dealer to use her home. Katherine Johnston, having lived almost 9 decades, was shot to death while trying to defend her Atlanta home after it was attacked by undercover cops. According to a neighborhood snitch, he never claimed her house was a drug site, despite police pressure to do so. No significant quantities of drugs were found at the home. What was her crime? Trying-to-survive-to-90-while-Black? What's more dangerous -- drugs, or armed undercover cops kicking in doors allegedly on drug raids? Police suspicion, it seems, is a weapon of urban war. Several years ago, writer Kristian Williams noted a case where a whole community was held under siege, because of police suspicion. In his remarkable 2003 book, Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America (Brooklyn, NY: Soft Skull Press), Williams recounted an amazing story: "The racial politics of police suspicion are well illustrated by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation's 'Operation Ready-Rock.' In November 1990, forty-five state cops, including canine units and the paramilitary Special Response Team, lay siege to the 100 block of Graham Street, in a black neighborhood of Chapel Hill. Searching for crack cocaine, the cops sealed off the streets, patrolled with dogs, and ransacked a neighborhood pool hall. In terms of crime control, the mission was a flop. Although nearly 100 people were detained and searched, only 13 were arrested, and one of them convicted. Nevertheless, and despite a successful class action lawsuit, the cops defended their performance and no officers were disciplined. "When applying for a warrant to search every person and vehicle on the block, the police had assured the judge, 'there are no 'innocent' people at this place ... Only drug sellers and drug buyers are on the described premises.' But once the clamp-down was underway, they became more discriminating: Blacks were detained and searched, sometimes at gunpoint, while whites were permitted to leave the cordoned area." [p. 121] How many of the armed maniacs who shot Johnston, Bell, Guzman or Benefield will ever see the inside of a cell? How many will reach the confines of Death Row? We know the answer -- because we've seen this movie before ... Paid leave (which amounts to paid vacations), a whitewash of an investigation, and a 'they-were-doing-their-jobs' is all that ever happens. It's a damned shame. Copyright 2006 Mumia Abu-Jamal