October 15, 2003,
An American travesty in Paris.
If it weren't so distasteful, the wire-service story that Paris last week made convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal an honorary citizen would read like a bad joke. The city's Socialist mayor, Bertrand Delanoe, shouted, "Mumia is a Parisian!" as a crowd of approximately 200 people cheered.
The honor, according to Delanoe, is also intended to protest America's continued use of capital punishment though Abu-Jamal's death sentence was overturned on a technicality in 2001; he is now serving a life sentence.
It's a life sentence he surely earned. On December 9, 1981, a 25-year-old Philadelphia cop named Danny Faulkner pulled over a car driven by William Cook Abu-Jamal's brother for a traffic violation. When Faulkner tried to handcuff him, Cook resisted, and as the two of them struggled, Abu-Jamal, driving a taxi in the neighborhood, spotted them, jumped from his cab and shot Faulkner in the back. Cook fled the scene as Faulkner collapsed to the ground but not before Faulkner wheeled around and shot Abu-Jamal in the chest. Abu-Jamal recoiled, then crawled back over to Faulkner and pumped four more shots into him, including one between his eyes, killing him.
Abu-Jamal is a cop killer. Full stop. The police found him holding the murder weapon, registered in his name, slumped beside the body of Officer Faulkner. They found shell casings scattered at his feet. Ballistics tests proved that the 38 caliber bullets which killed Faulkner had been fired from Abu-Jamal's gun.
Next to Abu-Jamal, O. J. Simpson looks like Alfred Dreyfus.
Nevertheless, absurd conspiracy theories have circulated for years about Abu-Jamal's innocence. His supporters, including such luminaries as actors Susan Sarandon, Ed Asner, and Mike Farrell, authors Alice Walker, Cornel West, and Jonathan Kozol, activists Ramsey Clark and Noam Chomsky, rappers Chuck D. and Mos Def, and rockers Rage Against the Machine and the Beastie Boys, seduced by Abu-Jamal's Rasta-next-door good looks and Cliff's Notes understanding of Marxism, insist that the police framed him. Why? Because, when he wasn't out driving cabs or killing cops, Abu-Jamal was a part-time journalist and member of the Black Panthers . . . and thus, their theories go, he had to be silenced.
Abu-Jamal himself insists he's a political prisoner apparently having talked himself into the idea that he wasn't really a high-school dropout who'd been fired from his part time radio job and forced to drive a cab at night but rather a revolutionary, jailed not for a brutal murder but for speaking the truth to power: "Capital's voice (the media) and their agents (the politicians) unite in a chorus of support for their legalized killers, who bomb babies with impunity . . . who shoot unarmed kids in their cars, and unarmed African emigrants, whose only capital crime is being Black in modern-day America."
In other words, Abu-Jamal is one of hundreds of pathetic night crawlers who fancy themselves locked in a life-or-death battle against the government of the United States and who interpret their incarcerations as evidence of their own significance.
Thus, at last week's ceremony in Paris, we find Angela Davis, former Black Panther poster girl, current University of California professor and perennial pseudo-intellectual, accepting the award on Abu-Jamal's behalf by declaring that the movement to free Abu-Jamal "takes on a new sense in face of American unilateralism, the aggression against the Iraqi people and the racist attacks against immigrants which can only further gnaw away at the vestiges of democracy in the United States."
Still, it's hard to figure why killing a Philadelphia cop should qualify Abu-Jamal as an honorary Parisian. I mean, if he'd thrown down his weapon and surrendered without a fight it might make a bit more sense since that is the French way.
Even by French standards, it's an especially stinky piece of cheese.
Then again, it's just what the likes of Abu-Jamal feasts on.
Mark Goldblatt is the author of the hip hop satire Africa Speaks.