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Mumia Abu-Jamal Tests Positive for COVID, Prompting Urgent Call to Release Elder Political Prisoners

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Renowned political prisoner and journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal’s lawyers confirmed Wednesday he has tested positive for COVID-19 and also has congestive heart disease. Abu-Jamal also suffers from the preexisting conditions of liver disease, which advocates say is directly related to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections’ failure to treat his hepatitis C in a timely fashion. Mumia’s doctor, Dr. Ricardo Alvarez, says the only appropriate treatment is freedom. Marc Lamont Hill, who co-authored a book with Abu-Jamal titled “The Classroom and the Cell: Conversations on Black Life in America,” says this is an opportunity to exercise COVID compassion. “The only possible solution, the only fair solution, is to let Mumia out of prison,” says Lamont Hill. “Not just Mumia, but all political prisoners, all people over 50.”

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Before we go, I wanted to end, Marc Lamont Hill, by asking you about what’s happening with Mumia Abu-Jamal — 

MARC LAMONT HILL: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: — who is in prison in Pennsylvania. You co-authored a book with him years ago titled The Classroom and the Cell: Conversations on Black Life in America. Mumia’s lawyers confirmed Wednesday he’s tested positive for COVID-19, also has congestive heart disease. Mumia also suffers from preexisting conditions of liver disease, which advocates say is directly related to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections’ failure to treat his hepatitis C in a timely fashion. His doctor, Dr. Ricardo Alvarez, says the only appropriate treatment is freedom. What do you think needs to happen now? And what was your response to hearing about his COVID-19 diagnosis?

MARC LAMONT HILL: I spoke to Mumia a week ago, right before he went into the hospital. He had labored breathing. He was clearly very ill. I didn’t quite know what was going on, but I knew that he was very ill. And it was no surprise to hear that he’s being rushed — that he was rushed to the hospital. They pumped almost 10 pounds of fluid of some sort out of his body.

He’s been made sick by this prison system, whether it’s not treating his hep C, as you mentioned, or the fact that he got COVID. And there are no visitors coming in. There are no guests coming in. The only people who are giving and transmitting COVID through this prison are prison guards, who come in, they don’t wear masks, not just as a matter policy, but as a matter of some weird right-wing principle. And as a result, people are dying.

And so, the only resolution, the only possible solution, the only fair solution, is to let Mumia out of prison — not just Mumia, but all political prisoners, all people over 50, not just all political prisoners, quite frankly, although people like Russell Maroon Shoatz, who’s 77 years old and who survived COVID but is suffering from cancer, should be sent home. All of our elders should be sent home. This is an opportunity to exercise COVID compassion. We’ve seen over the last six months what happens —

AMY GOODMAN: Marc, we have five seconds.

MARC LAMONT HILL: Let them go. Free them all.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Marc Lamont Hill, I’m also glad to be talking to you with you being over COVID right now. Marc Lamont Hill and Mitchell Plitnick are co-authors of the book Except for Palestine: The Limits of Progressive Politics.

Democracy Now! produced with Renée Feltz, Mike Burke, Deena Guzder, Libby Rainey, María Taracena, Carla Wills, Tami Woronoff, Charina Nadura. Special thanks to Julie Crosby. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh. Stay safe.

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