Credit: Bill Moore photo

During a Tuesday afternoon’s regional press-conference conducted at Penn Station in midtown-Manhattan activists demanded “the immediate release & outside care for all elder prisoners who have tested positive for COVID-19.” Their primary focus has been on fellow Black Panther activists Mutulu Shakur, 70, Mumia Abu-Jamal, 66, and Russell Maroon Shoatz, 77, as well as others incarcerated in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut state prisons. Similar rallies ran simultaneously in several other states.

Supporters of prominent political “prisoners-of-war” Shakur, Abu-Jamal and Shoatz; have called for their immediate releases from prison since they individually contracted COVID-19 earlier this year while imprisoned. The demands include treatment at modern medical facilities for all COVID positive prisoners/patients, as well as the “immediate distribution of personal protective equipment for all prisoners, visitors & prison staff.”

The esteemed Rev. Dr. Herbert Daughtry––national presiding minister emeritus of The House of the Lord Churches––shared some words; “I join my voice and concern along with unnumbered other voices in demanding that Mumia be released. He’s been incarcerated long enough to continue keeping him locked up for this inhumane cruelty. What harm could he do to society? If he were freed he could do much positive good.”

Despite social distancing protocols supporters who gathered held banners and signs with the incarcerated activists’ names in order to heighten awareness to this cause. They directed their demands to state governors Andrew Cuomo [NY], Phil Murphy [NJ], Ned Lamont [CT] and Tom Wolf [Pa.].

Along with the positive COVID-19 diagnosis, several prisoners are also enduring poor health issues. Shoatz has stage 4 colon cancer and “was then held for 10 days in a gymnasium with 30 other COVID-19 positive inmates who all shared one bathroom toilet.” Additionally, they argue that “he is being denied an urgent surgery to aid his colon cancer and needs immediate medical care.”

Candle/cellphone/flash light memorial vigils were conducted afterward, along with a “walk for life” effort also helping bring attention to this matter.

“Mumia and Russell have had a longstanding friendship and comradery, and many folks have been introduced to Russell when visiting Mumia on death row, when he would say, ‘Have you been to visit Maroon?’” Rev. Daughtry noted.

Supporters suggest that it is most appropriate that their current release efforts are also joined and are optimistic that both courageous men will soon meet up with their families beyond being behind the wall.

Activist and December 12th Movement member Omowale Clay said, “The denial of Black political prisoners a release status under the COVID-19 pandemic is fundamental to the United States’ criminalization of the Black liberation struggle. Therefore, Black political prisoners who have served ‘football score’ sentences, while being model prisoners, are still branded not for criminal behavior, but for their political decision to take on the criminal practices of the United States. Free All Political Prisoners / Bring Then All Home!”