Protesters stand next to a poster of Mumia Abu-Jamal during a demonstration outside of the US Department of Justice in Washington April 24, 2012.
US activists have held a demonstration in front of the Department of Justice in Washington to highlight the inequalities of the United States’ justice system.
On Tuesday, the demonstrators condemned what they called the mass incarceration of millions of people of color.
The Occupy Justice Department protesters also called on US Attorney General Eric Holder to open a federal investigation into political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal’s case and demanded that Abu-Jamal, who celebrated his 58th birthday on Tuesday, be released.
In December 1981, Abu-Jamal was arrested in Philadelphia and charged with murdering a police officer. In 1982, he was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death.
In 2008, a three-judge panel of the US 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the murder conviction, but ordered a new capital sentencing hearing over concerns that the jury was improperly instructed. Subsequently, the United States Supreme Court allowed his conviction to stand, and ordered the appeals court to reconsider its decision to rescind the death sentence.
In 2011, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction as well as its decision to vacate the death sentence, and the District Attorney of Philadelphia announced that prosecutors would no longer seek the death penalty. He was removed from death row in January 2012.
Abu-Jamal, who was formerly a radio announcer and the president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, maintains that he is innocent and has submitted numerous appeal requests based on allegations of judicial bias, police brutality, and an inadequate defense during his arrest and trial 30 years ago.
Before his arrest, Abu-Jamal was known for his outspoken political views and commentary on racial injustice and police brutality.
Abu-Jamal joined the Black Panther Party at the age of 15 in May 1969 and helped form the Philadelphia branch of the party. He was a member of the Black Panther Party until October 1970 and was subject to FBI COINTELPRO surveillance from 1969 until about 1974.
The African American activist has written several books during his years in prison and continues to protest against his conviction on prisonradio.org.
At the end of January 2012 he was released into the general population at State Correctional Institution - Mahanoy in Pennsylvania.
After his controversial trial drew international attention, former South African president Nelson Mandela, Amnesty International, the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition, several members of Congress, and a number of celebrities expressed support for Abu-Jamal.