YORK, PA — On Thursday, June 4, the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement’s (InPDUM) campaign to free political prisoner Ajamu Bandele pushed the State back at Ajamu’s (aka Orlando Gibson) sentencing hearing when the judge handed down a compromise sentence of two to four years instead of the six to 12 years that the District Attorney was fighting to give him.
The sentencing came in the aftermath of a five-month long political struggle between the InPDUM and the County of York, which has attempted to silence Ajamu by framing him up on marijuana charges. The struggle began in the summer of 2007, when Ajamu built the first York branch of the InPDUM. Subsequent to this, Ajamu had led serious campaigns to expose the City and County of York and its role in the police containment of and chemical (drug) warfare against the African community their.
The struggle between InPDUM and the State in York intensified on the night of October 29, when Ajamu was arrested by Pennsylvania state troopers and charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute it.
It took the State’s collaborating with all the predators of the African working class to trap Ajamu. Various foul agents of the white ruling class participated: the police, the judges, the DA, the York magistrate, the legal aid society (public defender), sectors of the African middle class and the white population as a whole.
The State called on the cooperation of two sellout lawyers who served as agents of the State by sabotaging Ajamu’s case and in so doing stealing thousands of dollars from InPDUM and his family. Ajamu’s first lawyer was eventually exposed to be among the ranks of the African neocolonial class (white power in black face) when, just weeks after “representing” Ajamu in his preliminary hearing, she came out as a candidate in the next DA election.
The State called on the opportunistic white North American population of York to fill all 12 positions on the lynch mob jury that was put together to convict Ajamu. Ajamu’s political work to defeat the police containment of the African community threatened to undermine the wealth and prosperity that the white population of York enjoys at the expense of the African community. In fact, more than $80,000 a day are pumped into York’s economy through a federally funded “stimulus” package that gives $82 for the County for every inmate held captive in the York County Jail.
York’s economy, much like the entire parasitic U.S. economy, is one from which every sector of the population except for the toiling masses of African and Latino workers benefit. In their self-serving interest in criminalizing Ajamu and by extension the masses he represents, all of the predators of the African working class began to rally their wagons and string up the noose.
All of these forces participated in the suppression of the glaring evidence that speaks to Ajamu’s innocence. In fact, much of the struggle InPDUM was involved in was for the right for Ajamu’s co-defendant Moses Coleman to make a statement speaking to Ajamu’s innocence.
Even as Moses was willing to give himself up to the State, the State refused to allow Moses to testify that Ajamu had no role in what they were being accused of. Instead the State hung threats over his head that if he said anything exposing Ajamu’s innocence, he would suffer a legal lynching like nothing he could imagine. This made it clear as day that the State wants Ajamu behind bars.
Moreover, this just further exposed what we already knew: the State — which includes the courts, police and prisons — have no interest in the truth or in justice. Law and order is not the question. In fact, when “the law” undermines white power’s ability to oppress and exploit the African community, the State disregards the law.
Through Ajamu’s case, we were shown that the only function of the State is to maintain the status quo and to contain and silence any form of resistance in the African community against the oppressive conditions it imposes on us. This is what it has done and continues to do to Ajamu and the African community in York.
Compromise sentence was an InPDUM victory!
It is the relentless struggle waged by InPDUM throughout the duration of Ajamu’s trial that prevented Gregory Snyder, the judge who presided over the sentencing hearing, from imposing the six to 12 year sentence that the District Attorney was salivating over like a rabid hyena waiting to feast on a dead carcass. It was for fear of the political consequences of he himself and the State in general being exposed as hypocritical and anti-democratic that led Snyder to make the most lenient ruling he was legally able to. These criticisms were implicit in the statements made by InPDUM and Uhuru Solidarity Movement (USM) forces at the sentencing hearing, and the threat that organizers would make them heard around the world was well heeded by Snyder.
Our capacity to follow through on this threat was evident in the last six months of relentless resistance that InPDUM has made against the County of York. The resistance was in the thousands of dollars InPDUM raised to pay for a lawyer and other expenses of the campaign. The resistance was in the numerous press conferences, demonstrations, call-in and write-in campaigns and thousands of fliers throughout the streets of York in below freezing weather, sometimes in the snow.
The resistance is in the tenacity shown by courageous Africans like Shomari Simba, who was physically assaulted and arrested by York police on different occasions for the work he did in defense of Ajamu and the poor and oppressed African community of York. The resistance was in brother Moses Coleman, who had to fight tooth and nail for the right to speak to Ajamu’s innocence, even as it left him wide open to an all out legal assault by the State. This is the fighting spirit of InPDUM and the African workers we represent!
On June 4, InPDUM and USM took that resistance into the courtroom. At the sentencing hearing Ajamu took the opportunity to maintain his innocence, pointing to all of the evidence that the court refused to accept during the trial and declaring that he would not rest until justice is served.
Ajamu’s statement was followed by International Organizer of InPDUM and Free Ajamu Campaign steering committee chair Diop Olugbala who confronted Snyder with a powerful statement challenging the York County Court to abide by the same supposed democratic virtues it loves to boast about. In his statement, comrade Diop held Ajamu up as a living example of what a real struggle for democracy can accomplish, referring to Ajamu’s transformation from an exploited worker in the drug economy to an advocate for genuine economic development for the African working class.
Another statement was given by InPDUM member Iyapo Ngina-Bandele, who in her own personal relationship with Ajamu as his wife, got to experience his commitment to building a strong family, by marrying her, adopting her daughter and taking his son out of foster care.
Another statement was given by Uhuru Solidarity Movement member Alison Hoene, the local leader of the USM in Philadelphia who has had the opportunity to work with Ajamu in Philly and York. Ajamu’s mother also provided a statement on Ajamu’s behalf that brought her and all those who attended the hearing to tears.
The hearing was more than an opportunity to vouch for Ajamu’s quality of character and his value to the community. The statements Uhuru Movement forces made that day were also a political message to the County of York, saying that, “even as you lock him up, let it be known that there will be no peace, not one minute without resistance, until Ajamu is free!”
This struggle is far from over. InPDUM is more determined than ever to see Ajamu freed from behind bars. To realize this InPDUM will be intensifying its political and legal struggles, the goal of which will be to bring the State to the conclusion that Ajamu is more of a threat to them behind bars than he is in the streets.
InPDUM is working to raise resources to obtain a new lawyer out of Philadelphia named Michael Coard. Coard has demonstrated his qualifications in his brilliant defense of the City Hall 2 during their preliminary hearing. Coard will be representing Ajamu during the appeals process.
InPDUM will be carrying out a broad petition campaign seeking thousands of signatures from around the world.
InPDUM will be waging a street propaganda campaign, having local Free Ajamu committees put up Free Ajamu posters in York and other areas where we are located. (To build a Free Ajamu Committee in your area email email@example.com)
InPDUM is also calling on all InPDUM forces and supporters to participate in a letter write in to Ajamu. The State must not be allowed to escape the call to Free Ajamu, even when they are sorting out mail for inmates at the York County Jail. InPDUM is encouraging everyone to write Ajamu at the York County Jail, where he is currently being held until being shipped off to State Prison: Orlando Gibson #47081, 3400 Concord Rd, York, PA, 17402
You will be hearing more from the International Executive Committee of InPDUM in the coming days with regards to immediate plans for the campaign. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to call InPDUM International Organizer Diop Olugbala at 215-849-3431.
They Took Comrade Ajamu’s Freedom ‘Cause He Was Out Here Building InPDUM!
Free Ajamu and ALL 2 million African political prisoners!