TRAFFIC SLOWED to a halt and a bagpiper belted out Irish melodies, while a procession of police motorcycle club members circled in front of the Merriam Theater last night, where a long-awaited documentary on the 1981 murder of Police Officer Daniel Faulkner premiered.
Among the crowd gathered for Tigre Hill's "The Barrel of a Gun" were Hugh Gallagher and his daughter, who were close friends of Faulkner, whom Mumia Abu-Jamal was convicted of killing.
Gallagher, a former Philadelphia highway patrolman who was the best man at Faulkner's wedding, spoke out passionately against those who have come to Abu-Jamal's defense and turned his case into a cause celebre.
"It's all unfounded. They've made up so much stuff," Gallagher said. "They weren't even alive when Danny got killed."
Hill's film investigates the shooting, which occurred around the block from the Merriam Theater on Locust Street near 13th on Dec. 9, 1981. Abu-Jamal was convicted of the murder and is on death row pending an appeal, but activists from around the world have rallied to his side.
Hill said he spent nearly four years traveling to France, New York, Los Angeles and various other locations for research.
"A lot of people think they know what happened, but very few people do," said Kevin Kelly, executive producer of the film.
Tickets to the screening - which cost $46.99 (representing Faulkner's badge number) and raised money for a scholarship fund in Faulkner's memory - were sold out. Members of the FOP turned out in great numbers to support the event.
Meanwhile last night, a film with an opposing view, "Justice on Trial" was shown at the Ritz East. Hill refused to comment on the allegations presented in the other film, saying he hadn't seen it.
"The great thing about this country is you can make a film that says the opposite of what I said," Hill said.
Only two pro-Abu-Jamal protesters turned out for the premiere of Hill's film. Joel Rosenbloom and Emile Paulmier held up pro-Abu-Jamal signs outside of the Merriam.
Moments after the protesters arrival, police escorted them to the end of the block and then across Broad Street, where three suited officers accompanied them for the remainder of the evening.
"I disagree with this movie's stance and I feel like I wanted to make myself known, my disapproval of it," Paulmier said.
The two Philadelphia natives said they had considered seeing the movie but couldn't afford the ticket price.