More than 200 people, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, turned out Saturday in Los Angeles to protest the murder conviction of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a journalist and political activist who some believe was framed for the 1981 slaying of a police officer in Philadelphia.
The demonstration was part of a national day of protest on behalf of Abu-Jamal, who had been scheduled to die by lethal injection Thursday but received an indefinite stay of execution pending a defense effort to get him a new trial.
"It was a great moment for celebration, but the struggle is not over," Jackson told the crowd at Leimert Plaza in the Crenshaw district. "Every day he goes without a retrial, he dies daily. While fighting for Mumia, fight for the thousands of others like him. Do not stop until justice comes."
Jackson, who attended the protest with U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), was in Los Angeles on Saturday along with members of his Rainbow Coalition to help organize a recall effort against Gov. Pete Wilson, who is running for President. Jackson opposes Wilson's efforts to end welfare benefits for undocumented immigrants and affirmative action programs statewide.
Saturday's rally coincided with other gatherings for Abu-Jamal in San Francisco, St. Louis, New Orleans and Philadelphia, where 3,000 protesters turned out at City Hall.
Across the country, a growing chorus of social activists, including writers, entertainers, politicians, educators and journalists, have publicly denounced the handling of Abu-Jamal's case.
Abu-Jamal, 41, has been on Pennsylvania's Death Row since 1982, when a jury convicted him of murdering Officer Daniel Faulkner. Prosecutors alleged that he shot Faulkner after seeing Faulkner strike Abu-Jamal's brother, Warren Cook, with a flashlight while trying to arrest him.
Some of Abu-Jamal's supporters say that the real gunman fled the scene and that he was framed by law enforcement because of his criticism of the police and support for black nationalist causes as a radio commentator.
Others argue that he might not necessarily be innocent, but that conflicting ballistics reports and the emergence of another possible eyewitness raise enough questions about the case to warrant a new trial.
At Leimert Plaza on Saturday, the dreadlocks, African prints and UCLA T-shirts worn by some protesters contrasted with the bow ties, conservative suits and cropped hair of Black Muslims.
Banners strung across trees and erected on posts said, "Abolish the Racist Death Penalty. Save Mumia Abu-Jamal." Throughout the afternoon, politicians and community activists climbed onto the bed of a pickup truck that served as a podium and denounced the prosecution, using words like "solidarity," "struggle," "empowerment," "hypocrisy" and "revolution."