PHILADELPHIA—On Tuesday, August 24, the US government gave another example of its desperation in the face of popular resistance with the conviction of Diop Olugbala in Philadelphia.
Despite all the efforts to paint imperialism with a new, benign and friendlier face, the US government, using its local arm of the law in Philadelphia, showed its vicious fangs for all to see, with a pretense of a trial that was designed to take Diop Olugbala off the streets and deny the ability of Africans to struggle against our own oppression.
The official felony charge that Diop was tried and convicted for, punishable by up to ten years imprisonment and fines, was aggravated assault on a cop.
He and his co-defendant, Shabaka Mnombatha, were also convicted of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Felony charges against Shabaka had been dropped in court proceedings earlier in the year.
However, for everyone familiar with the case, it is known that the charges were political.
The US pretends not to conduct political trials so the Philadelphia government went out of its way to criminalize political protest that is legal even by US constitutional standards.
Diop’s case stems from a demonstration at a Philadelphia city council meeting, where he and others were protesting the latest attempts to transfer the system’s economic crisis onto the backs of African workers and other exploited and oppressed people in the city.
As the video of the protest clearly shows, the government, concerned about the growing unpopularity of the vicious economic attacks on the people, had the police physically attack Diop and the protesters, snatching his protest banner and choking him in full public view.
But, as is usually the case, Diop was charged with attacking the police. This was an example of the thief yelling, “Stop, thief!”
If there was any doubt of the nefarious intent of the government to silence Diop, one only had to see the history of the events leading to the trial.
In Philadelphia, under Diop’s leadership, International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement (InPDUM) held numerous demonstrations against the police violence in the African community and candlelight vigils for victims of police murders, sometimes being the only organized voice of resistance.
InPDUM held People’s Tribunals, one of which put the City of Philadelphia on trial for crimes of genocide.
In the process of building the tribunal, Diop physically served mayor Nutter and police chief Charles Ramsey with the People’s Subpoena to appear at the Tribunal.
This subpoena was served on mayor Nutter and chief Ramsey at a December 10, 2008 town hall meeting at Ben Franklin High School, where Diop also exposed the $1.1 billion police budget of the city.
And in addition to many other community based struggles, Diop also managed to unite the progressive black movement in Philadelphia against the selection of neocolonial district attorney Seth Williams, who ran for office on a platform calling for the opening of prosecutors’ offices in every African community in Philadelphia, as well as calling for the execution of Mumia Abu Jamal.
To deepen the reality that these are political charges against Diop, in addition to the formal charges leveled in Philadelphia, there also exist the unspoken charge, which stems from the August 2008 Obama rally in St Petersburg, Florida.
Diop had the temerity to raise the question of Obama before millions of people around the world, the same question he has been raising with Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter’s regime: “What about the black community?”
The trial itself was a mockery of justice. It only took judge Roxanne Covington ten minutes to review all the evidence, including witness statements and video of the meeting in question, to render a verdict of guilty on everything the State claimed Diop and his co-defendant did.
These 10 minutes were apparently used for her to go to her chambers, wipe the smirk off her face, put on her make-up, so that she could come back and read what did not even appear to be a sober or just verdict.
Here is a summary of some of the observations of the legal skullduggery that arose during the proceedings in judge Roxanne Covington’s courtroom:
Incompetent counsel: This should have been a jury trial. We should have given the judge the opportunity to sustain all of the prosecutions objections and overrule all of the defenses.
The colonial court was unchallenged. When comrade Diop objected to a bench trial, the judge intervened, recessed the trial for five minutes and instructed attorney Michael Coard to confer with his clients becasue the bench trial was already a done deal.
Coard’s advice was that “Hey, I just won a bench trial this morning before Covington, and I can do it again.” Thus, the bench lynching transpired.
There were many, many other legal travesties that occurred at this trial. Not the least of which our attorney failed to present a single witness for the defense that would have contradicted the police testimony, which the video would have clearly done.
The police testified that they did not put a hand on Diop. Our attorney led us to believe that he knew something, that he had the inside scoop. Maybe he did.
Our paid lawyer never put Diop or anyone else on the stand to testify to our right to free speech or the right to protest. We saw Diop raise a banner during an Obama meeting and he was not attacked by the police.
They must have been playing catch up at the Philadelphia city council meeting.
Michael Coard never solicited the ACLU or the National Lawyers Guild’s help to raise the question of free speech, which he assured us he would raise. He only cited one case law on free speech. And we can go on and on.
However, from years of experience of having to defend ourselves and our people in rigged US courtrooms, and having to go in with legal representation that has absolute confidence in US colonialist courts, there was no reason what-so-ever to believe that Michael Coard was any different, therefore, allowing this travesty to occur rests squarely on the shoulders of those who were leading the effort to Free Diop Olugbala.
This trial absolutely came to be because of the problems Diop and InPDUM presented to the Michael Nutter and Barack Obama regimes in raising the question, “What about the black community?”
The Black Liberation Movement has raised its head in the US, dealing with the oppression and colonial exploitation of our people as it represents itself today, at this moment.
This is not just a rehashing of the past repression as exposed by the attempt to murder our dear brother, Mumia Abu Jamal, for something he is accused of from the 1980s; this is not the case of the San Francisco 8, those courageous brothers who fought for our freedom in the 1960s and 1970s.
Diop’s case is about resistance as it is necessary now. Indeed, the attack on Diop is clear evidence of the impact our movement is having on the struggle against imperialism within US borders today.
It is clear evidence of the fragility of a great “super power” that cannot even tolerate real, critical political and ideological debate. It is evidence of the fraudulence of US white ruling class democracy.
But despite the efforts of the US capitalist-colonialist state, the genie is out of the bottle: the resistance has begun and it cannot be stopped by the arrest and conviction of Diop Olugbala.
The militant all-day demonstrations in support of Diop Olugbala and the packing of the courtroom showed our determination to resist and struggle for our and Diop’s freedom.
The hundreds of phone calls and emails to the neocolonialist Negro judge, Roxanne Covington, demanding the freedom of Diop bear witness to our total commitment to fight and resist police and economic terror whose interest she ruled in favor of.
This movement to free and defend Diop Olugbala will do even more to build the resistance while exposing US imperialism under Barack Hussein Obama to its rotten core.
ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE! AND BLACK POWER TO THE AFRICAN COMMUNITY!
FREE DIOP AND ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS AND PRISONERS OF WAR!
What You can Do:
Diop faces sentencing on Oct. 13 – Call & email the judge!
Mondays and Tuesdays: October 4, 5, 11 & 12
Judge Roxanne Covington
Tell her to reverse Diop's conviction. No charges, no sentence!
Your calls have been effective throughout this case – forcing the State to change judges three times. We need to let this judge know that we won't stop fighting until Diop is free!
Let us know you called or emailed:
Send reports of calls and cc: your letters to email@example.com.
Take Action! Support and Sympathy Must Transform Into Organized Resistance
InPDUM, our supporters and allies waged a fierce campaign to Free Diop. This campaign is far from over. In fact it has just begun. There is an appeal process that we have every intention to pursue as we await Diop’s sentencing hearing on October 13.
The International Executive Committee of InPDUM is calling for our supporters and members to participate in the effort to carry out the following plan of action:
Main goals and objectives of the Free Diop Campaign:
Build and consolidate a Free Diop International Steering Committee comprised of (but not limited to) the following positions: Chair, Secretary, Fundraiser, Treasurer, Membership Coordinator, Political Action Coordinator and Outreach Coordinator.
Build and consolidate local Free Diop committees in all the cities where support for the campaign exists.
Put Diop on tour. Bring Diop to speak to your community, college campus or high school.
- Continue to call and write judge Roxeanne Covington demanding the charges be dropped.