Two opposing rallies converged in Philadelphia Friday as supporters of convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal held a celebration in his honor while others gathered in remembrance of slain police officer Daniel Faulkner.
It was standing room only at the National Constitution Center where hundreds of Abu-Jamal supporters were marking the 30th anniversary of his arrest for Faulkner's murder, ABC affiliate WPVI-TV reported. The event took place just days after prosecutors dropped their push in seeking the death penalty for him.
The former Black Panther has long maintained he was the victim of a racist legal system, a charge his supporters took up Friday.
Speakers included Cornel West and Poet Laureate Amiri Baraka, and the event even featured a live phone conference with Abu-Jamal himself, who offered advice for youth trying to fight for justice, local CBS affiliate KYW-TV reported. Supporters exploded in applause as soon as his voice rang out over the sound system.
“I would say follow your heart, and do the right thing. Because nine times out of 10, you’re doing the right thing," Abu-Jamal said over the phone.
Abu-Jamal supporter Candice Benford told WPVI she attended the event because, "The fact that he's behind bars for so long without the proper conviction process being held."
Tarisse Iriarte added, "I believe in the cause, and I believe in fighting injustices."
Meanwhile, a group of police officers and bikers gathered outside the center in Faulkner's memory. WPVI reported more than a hundred motorcyclists from different biker groups rode around outside and revved their engines in remembrance.
"We're just showing our support to an officer that was killed in cold blood by a murderer, who is still alive today, who shouldn't be on this earth anymore," Brian Thomas said.
"These people are anarchist. They don't believe in the rule of law," Bill Walls said of the Abu-Jamal supporters inside.
But those inside the center dismissed the protesters outside.
"Those people out there kind of made me laugh," Sue Kelly told WPVI. "I think they thought that they were making so much noise, they would disrupt our program. But they didn't realize that this place is pretty soundproof."