If online petitions ruled the day, no one would be living on Mumia Street any time soon.
There's a movement afoot to rename a street in Harlem to honor Mumia Abu-Jamal, the jailed former Philadelphia freelance radio reporter convicted of the 1981 murder of Officer Daniel Faulkner.
A petition went online back in September, and has been slowly attracting support - 421 signatures so far. The author is named Jeremy Syrop, and his Web site is freemumia.com, where one can download posters that trumpet the cause:
"Now is the time for Harlem to name a street after Mumia," they read. "His life is in great danger and a 'Mumia Street' could help create a momentum to prevent an execution and even win a new trial."
A second, identical petition at another online service has garnered 37 signatures.
But a third petition is proving to be much more popular - that would be the anti-Mumia drive. It went up last week, and within 48 hours had nearly 700 signatures. By last count, it had 5,155. Tony Allen wrote about it in his anti-MOVE blog:
"Having profaned a street in a suburb of France the pro-Jamal zealots have now decided to repeat their 'success' here in the United States by having a street in Harlem, New York City, named after the convicted cop-killer.
"Pursuant to this goal, the Mumia devotees have started a petition and have even gone so far as to raise money for TV commercial spots as a means of bringing attention to their cause.
"To name a street after a confirmed killer, cult apologist, and virulent anti-American fanatic like Jamal would be a vile testament to the power of propaganda and an ugly reminder that ignorance has again triumphed over common sense and human decency."
There's precedent for naming a street after a "living revolutionary," according to the posters created by the pro-Mumia group. A street outside Paris, in Saint Denis, has been renamed in Abu Jamal's honor. And Nelson Mandela and Joe Doherty of the Irish Republican Army have been so honored in New York City.
The pro-Mumia petition lauds his "incredible accomplishments, including during the almost 25 years he has spent on death row: five published books and weekly brilliant commentaries exposing the lies that imperialist USA fosters, that are read and listened to by millions around the world."
It seeks a street in his honor now "because Mumia's case is in its last stages in the court system and, while there is an opportunity for a new and fair trial, the State of Pennsylvania, the Fraternal Order of Police and their allies are opposing that tooth and nail and are demanding, instead, that Mumia be executed."
Abu-Jamal was arrested in Faulkner's murder early on Dec. 9, 1981. The 25-year-old officer stopped a Volkswagen on Locust Street driven by Abu-Jamal's brother, William Cook. There was a scuffle. Moments later, the policeman was shot in the back and then between the eyes. Abu-Jamal, 27 at the time, was found sitting on the curb, four feet from the body. He'd been shot in the chest. Ballistics testimony at the trial indicated that the bullets fired into Officer Faulkner were "consistent" with having been fired from the .38-caliber Charter Arms revolver found at the scene. It was registered to Abu Jamal.
He was convicted and sentenced to death a year later by Common Pleas Court Judge Albert F. Sabo, who had presided over more death-penalty convictions than any other judge in America. During his long stay on death row, Abu-Jamal became a cause celebre. He wrote a book, Live From Death Row. National Public Radio aired his commentaries, before canceling the deal. He attracted famous supporters worldwide. In 2001, his death sentence was overturned in federal court. The case is still on appeal.
For more of Blinq, go to http://blogs.philly.com/blinq. E-mail Daniel Rubin and Blinq at firstname.lastname@example.org.