The following interview with Clarence Thomas was conducted for the IWC Weekly Newsletter by Alan Benjamin, member of the editorial board of The Organizer Weekly Newsletter. Brother Thomas is a past president of ILWU Local 10 and remains a rank-and-file leader of the San Francisco Bay Area labor movement as a retiree in his union.
Question: Brother Clarence, you’re a convener of the February 1st International Forum and its Call to Action to free Mumia Abu-Jamal and All Anti-Racist and Anti-Imperialist Freedom Fighters. You issued your own personal Call to Action for this forum in which you underscored the need to put an end to the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, Apartheid and racial violence perpetrated against African Americans, in particular.
Why is this International Forum so important today? And what are the new developments with the Mumia case that make it absolutely imperative that Mumia should be freed immediately?
Clarence Thomas: Mumia is an innocent man. He was framed because as a revolutionary journalist he documented the repression facing African Americans in Philadelphia and other crimes committed by the ruling class in Pennsylvania. He was listened to widely. He was, and remains, the voice of the voiceless, a man of great integrity and courage. He was targeted at a very young age because he was a member of the Black Panther Party and because of his great intellect. That’s why the powers-that-be, beginning with the Democratic Party and the Fraternal Order of the Police, want him locked up for good.
Mumia’s situation is not unique. Many other political prisoners were framed and have been locked up for life.
A fact that often gets overlooked is that Mumia has been a member of the National Writers Union for some time. The NWU is affiliated to the UAW. He has said many times how proud he is to be a card-carrying member of a union. He has been steadfast in his support of labor. The international labor movement needs to know this.
During the period of Apartheid in South Africa, the liberal establishment, but also the Black clergy and Black labor leadership, spoke out loudly against the crimes of Apartheid. But the fight against Apartheid here in the United States has not been embraced like it was in South Africa.
We cannot ignore this fact: the labor movement and the society at large have been impacted by white supremacy. Jim Crow; the mass incarceration of Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans; and the Black Liberation Movement don’t receive the respect they deserve.
That is why the fight to free Mumia is so important. He should be freed now, today! All the evidence that was withheld and that has now surfaced in the six boxes – exposes the frame-up. We must make Mumia’s freedom an example to be followed. Mumia’s case represents an opportunity for all political prisoners who were framed. We must release them all from prison.
This is a moment, an opportunity, for the labor movement nationally and internationally to come forward, front and center, and really do something because if we don’t, we will all be affected by this travesty. Our struggles for voting rights, labor rights, women’s rights, and more, are all interconnected. We are all fighting the neo-liberal policies in one form or another. We have to connect the dots.
Question: In your statement in support of the February 1 International Forum you point to the day-long work stoppages organized over the years by ILWU Local 10 as examples of the kinds of actions that could be organized internationally. Tell us about this.
Clarence Thomas: At key moments of struggle, both at home and abroad, members of the ILWU – and of ILWU Local 10 in particular – have exercised their democratic rights as workers, and they have withheld their labor to demand justice and redress of grievances.
During the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa, we refused to unload South African cargo. Our action was heard around the world. In 1999, 29 ports on the West Coast were shut down to demand justice for Mumia. In 2008, 29 ports were shut down to protest police violence against Black people. In 2020, ports again were shut down on June teenth. The list is long.
The labor movement could be using its leverage in the global economy and carrying out actions such as we have done. The situation is urgent. Our voting rights as African Americans are under frontal attack. The Democratic Party cannot even protect the African American people’s right to vote. More than ever, we need to mobilize in our own name.
An Injury to One Is an Injury to All, Free Mumia Abu Jamal! Free them All!