Thursday, December 07, 2006

U.S. House Denounces Abu-Jamal Street Name

A resolution asks France to change the name of a suburb's street honoring the convicted police killer.

By Kimberly Hefling
Associated Press

WASHINGTON - House members last night passed a resolution denouncing a French city for naming a street in honor of convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.

"We must stand together as one and send a strong message to the world that cop-killers deserve to be punished, not to be celebrated," said Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.), the Bucks County congressman who wrote the resolution.

The vote came a few days shy of the 25th anniversary of the slaying of Daniel Faulkner, a 25-year-old officer shot after he pulled over Abu-Jamal's brother on Dec. 9, 1981. Abu-Jamal, a onetime radio reporter and former Black Panther, was convicted in 1982 and sentenced to death.

Abu-Jamal's writings and taped speeches on the justice system have made him a cause celebre among Hollywood activists, foreign politicians, and some death-penalty opponents who believe he was the victim of a racist justice system.

In December 2001, a federal judge overturned Abu-Jamal's death sentence but upheld his conviction. Both sides have appealed that ruling.

In April, a street in St. Denis, a suburb in France just north of Paris, was named after Abu-Jamal.

The resolution asks the French government to step in to change the street name if St. Denis opted not to. The measure passed 368-31, with eight members voting present.

The vote was symbolic, since the U.S. Senate is not expected to take up the measure before Congress adjourns this week.

The police union in Philadelphia sent a representative to Washington on Wednesday and watched the vote closely, especially that of Rep. Chaka Fattah, a candidate for Philadelphia mayor. The union has promised to work against Fattah in the 2007 Democratic primary, because he supports giving Abu-Jamal a new trial.

Fattah said in a statement that despite being unconvinced that justice was served in the case, he voted for the resolution because "anyone who stands convicted of so terrible an offense is an affront to those who risk their lives on a daily basis to serve."

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