BR played a concert together with Rage Against The Machine and the Beastie Boys at the Continental Airlines Arena in northern New Jersey on January 28, 1999, to benefit the black activist and journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal who was convicted and sentenced to death in 1982. Meanwhile, the conviction was upheld, but the sentence of death was voided. The appeal by prosecutors to reinstate the death penalty has not yet been heard. Read the whole story here.
The concert was attended by 16,000 people, with ticket prices being 25 Dollars. Greg Graffin said the bands organized the concert to raise awareness about the racial inequities in the use of the death penalty. "To me, the biggest issue of awareness that I would like to promote is the inhumanity of the death penalty," he said. "We also believe that Mumia should be given a fair trial." Here is a whole interview with Greg on the subject.
The concert started a lot of controversy as the police officers who were assigned to patrol the event were disgusted that they had to look after "kids supporting a cop killer", while Governor Whitman called for ticketholders to boycott the sold out event.
Here's a letter sent by Jack Rabid (publisher of The Big Takeover magazine) to the editor of Star-Ledger (Speaking Up Section of Star-Ledger):
"Claudia Perry's story on this Thursday's Meadowlands concert benefiting death row cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal was a horrendous piece of one-sided reporting, highlighting why young people and Americans in general no longer trust our media to fairly or accurately inform us on events and issues around us.
The understandable outrage expressed by Governor Whitman, Attorney General Verniero, and the widow of the slain officer Faulkner were all quoted at length, including Ms. Whitman's call for ticketholders to boycott the sold-out event. But in a phony display of "balance," the only quote printed from the artists performing was a largely irrelevant, irreverent reaction from Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello to being so lambasted by the authorities (shock! rock bands like being considered anti-establishment!). Not one word was included as to why the three stars on the bill-Rage, the Beastie Boys, and Bad Religion-would donate their time, names, and the show's generous proceeds to such a cause, the natural question that would arise to anyone reading such an article! Hello?
In contrast, Daily News staff reporter Chrisena Coleman managed to cover both sides in her reporting of what is in fact a complex issue. While dutifully weighing in with Governor Whitman and Mr. Verniero, she also quoted Bad Religion singer Greg Graffin, who explained that "the groups organized the concert to raise awareness about the evils of the death penalty. We also believe that Mumia should be given a fair trial. We would like to call attention to the racial inequities of the capital punishment system." Coleman also detailed Abu-Jamal's contention, totally absent from Perry's piece, that "police coerced an eyewitness to testify against him, unfairly stacked a jury with white people, and railroaded him to a guilty verdict" in the 1981 killing of the white officer. (Daily News, 1/23/99, p. 7)
While the merits of Abu-Jamal's case and the issues behind it are debatable, they cannot be debated unless they are mentioned. Abu-Jamal may well be a "deplorable" murderer, as Mr. Verniero suggests, but the possibility that we have condemned an innocent black activist to death should at least give us pause. When a story parrots law enforcement, governmental, and crime victim outrage as the start and end of the story, this is gross distortion worthy of Pravda. All the more so when the show's performers are portrayed as stereotypical, moronic rock renegades (compared in the article to shock rocker Marilyn Manson, as if this was merely another First-Amendment-rights-for-the- socially-abhorrent issue!).
In the end, your article just gave the concert cheap publicity, the opposite of what any grieving widow, police officer, or socially aware rock fan would wish. And in doing so, you have contributed to the embitterment of any otherwise fair-minded officers who will be assigned to patrol an event attended by 20,000 young fans."
|08/10||Added link to the interview with Greg, that is now in the Media archive instead of a txt file - By Marty|