Daily News reporter Jan Ransom got her first taste of the controversy surrounding Mumia Abu-Jamal this week. Here's her report from the Tuesday night screenings of two documentaries about the convicted cop-killer:
The case against Mumia Abu-Jamal — one of the most debated and controversial cases in American history — was resurrected in the city once again this week with the screening Tuesday night of two markedly different documentaries about the case.
Johanna Fernandez, a Baruch College professor said she sought to articulate the argument of both sides in “Justice on Trial,” but the film became a reflection of the side she and filmmaker Kouross Esmaeli had access to.
In the film, Fernandez argues that Abu-Jamal — convicted in the Dec. 9, 1981, murder of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner — deserves another trial.
Tigre Hill’s “The Barrel of a Gun” argues Abu-Jamal’s guilt and points to his association with MOVE and the Black Panthers whom Hill said targeted police.
“What I show is a side of the Panthers people don’t know about,” Hill said. “They wanted to start guerrilla warfare in the U.S.”
Fernandez said she would like to discuss and debate the issues of the case with Hill, adding that his interpretation that Abu-Jamal was politically motivated by the Black Panthers is incorrect.
“He is completely distorting the legacy of the Black Panthers,” Fernandez said. “Their mission was to protect the African-American community against police brutality.”
Hill said he would consider Fernandez’s proposal.
“Is it a gross distortion? I don’t think so,” Hill said. “It’s a part of the Panther legacy.”
Standing outside of the Ritz East Tuesday night was Abdus Sabur, father of Askia Sabur, a 29-year-old man who was seen on YouTube being whacked multiple times by police in West Philadelphia.
“It hasn’t stopped actually, it’s gotten worse,” Abdus said of brutality.
His son’s preliminary hearing was postponed this week until this month and the incident is under investigation by police Internal Affairs.
“The police have misunderstood their [job, which is] protecting the people,” Abdus said. “We’ve got to be so distant. There’s no love between us.”
Members of the New Black Panther Party were present during a march to the 19th District in West Philadelphia for Askia. They stood silently, dressed in black between the officers and Askia supporters.