Yesterday, one of the leaders in the movement to stop the execution of journalist Mumia Abu Jamal was jailed for violation of probation. Clark Kissinger received a 90 day jail sentence in Philadelphia after having been arrested in that city at a demonstration in support of Mumia in July 1999. He was charged with "failure to obey a lawful order" — a petty offense, on a par with leaving a dog off a leash. His one-year probation barred the New Yorker from traveling without the court’s permission. [includes rush transcript]
After being denied permission to go to Philadelphia during the Republican National Convention, Kissinger spoke at a demonstration there and was arrested. His attorney, Ron Kuby argued at a hearing yesterday, that the travel restriction violated Kissinger’s free speech rights and restrained his political activity.
- Frances Golden, literary agent for Mumia Abu Jamal who was arrested with Kissinger in 1999, and who was present in the courtroom yesterday.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to now talk about what happened yesterday in a Philadelphia courtroom. Activist Clark Kissinger was jailed in Philadelphia for ninety days for violation of probation. He had been arrested in Philadelphia at a demonstration in support of Mumia Abu-Jamal in July of 1999. He was charged with "failure to obey a lawful order," a petty offense on a par with leaving a dog off a leash. His one-year probation barred the New Yorker from traveling without the court’s permission.
After being denied permission to go to Philadelphia during the Republican National Convention, Clark Kissinger spoke at a demonstration there and was arrested. His attorney argued at a hearing yesterday that the travel restriction violated Kissinger’s free speech rights and restrained his political activity. The proceedings were extremely contentious.
And joining us now to talk about what happened is Frances Golden, who is the literary agent for Mumia Abu-Jamal and was arrested like Clark Kissinger in July of 1999. She was not taken off to jail yesterday, and so we’re able to talk to her. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Frances Golden.
FRANCES GOLDEN: Good morning to you.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain what happened in the courtroom yesterday?
FRANCES GOLDEN: Yes, it was a repeat of our trial with the judge and the prosecuting attorney having made up their mind, regardless of what facts were put before them. And the facts were cogent. The point was made that Clark did indeed go to make a speech. He had been allowed three times to go out of the state for matters that were personal.
But as long as he had to go out to do his job — his job is as an organizer. His main role in that job is to help free Mumia Abu-Jamal. And he felt duty-bound at that historic time and place in Philadelphia during the Republican convention to speak. He did. He went only for the purpose of speaking at that big meeting. He spoke. He got back on the bus and went home. And for that, he is serving — he will be serving — well, [inaudible] is trying to overturn it. He was sentenced to three months in prison.
AMY GOODMAN: Why three months?
FRANCES GOLDEN: This was supposedly the suggestion of the probation department that he serve three months. Mr. Goldberg, the prosecuting attorney, argued that wasn’t enough. He should serve until April 21, when his year’s probation ends. But that — the judge stayed with the decision of the probation lawyer.
AMY GOODMAN: And what happened in court, in terms of just the proceedings and what happened in the courtroom?
FRANCES GOLDEN: At one point, after the judge kind of mumbled that he would stick with the decision to jail him for three months, he said because everywhere Clark goes, disturbance follows, which had people in the audience titter and laugh.
He had sort of reached the end of his patience, and he yelled out "Clear the court!" at which point, a number of women and men yelled, "No, no, no." One said, "This is not a star — we are not in Peru. We want to have an open court. We want to hear what’s going on." And particularly one person, one woman, Mary Lou Greenberg, was grabbed violently, dragged out of the courtroom and thrown on the floor of the hall. A lot of women jumped on the guy who was doing it. There was chaos. Two young men were arrested.
AMY GOODMAN: And what happened to you, Frances Golden?
FRANCES GOLDEN: Well, we — I was sitting with a wonderful older man who’s blind and his seeing-eye dog. And they allowed Clark’s wife, daughter, two lawyers, and one reporter and the two of us to stay in the courtroom. I thought they were letting us stay out of the kindness of their hearts, because I was assisting a blind man. Little did I know that when the case was over and we were leaving the courtroom, a sweet gentleman approached me kindly and said, "May I speak with you for a moment?" And I said, "Certainly." And he said, "You are in federal detention. You are under arrest." And I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "You are under arrest." And I said, "Just a minute," because I had a letter in my pocketbook. I had asked to go to the hearing, because I felt duty-bound to support morally my co-defendant, Clark Kissinger.
My lawyer called Judge Rapoport, who invoked the three-month sentence on Clark, and said, "She wants to sit in the courtroom and then go home. She wants to support her co-defendant." And he said, "Absolutely not." My lawyer then approached Judge Kauffman, who is handling the appeal of our conviction. And he gave me permission to go. And I had a letter in my bag to that effect. And the bailiff, or whoever it was that told me I was under arrest, told me to sit down in the jury box, and he would be back. At that point, everybody was leaving the court.
And when Ron Kuby saw me sitting in a strange place, he said, "What are you doing here?" And I said, "I’m under arrest." And he said, "Well, I think you need a lawyer," and he sat down next to me. And the man came back and said, "OK, you can go home." And I pressed him as to who ordered him to do this. And he said it was Judge Rapoport.
And I said I insist on an apology from Judge Rapoport, because he assumed that I was violating my probation, which I was not. And he had no right to such an assumption. And he got me very upset and I want an apology, at which point they said he had left the courtroom and there’s nothing I could do about it. And so, I left the courtroom, free, to struggle, as we are all doing, to get Clark out of jail and to free Mumia Abu-Jamal.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much for being with us, Frances Golden, literary agent for Mumia Abu-Jamal, who’s on death row in Pennsylvania, convicted of killing a police officer, Daniel Faulkner. He says he did not murder Daniel Faulkner, and this case remains a highly contentious case, as people around the world call for a new trial for Mumia Abu-Jamal. In fact, in New York, here, where I’m broadcasting from, on Saturday there is a major march and rally for Mumia Abu-Jamal in Harlem. And among those who will be speaking will be Julia Wright, international writer, daughter of Richard Wright, as well as Alice Walker and others.