I expected a Kardashian to be crowned as Time Magazine’s person of the year, so it was a welcomed relief that the Protestor entered at number one.
Suppressed voices rallied together to bring down foreign governments and topple dictators; concerned citizens, outraged as their countries teetered on the edge of an economic apocalypse, made a stand; and students and public sector workers, worried about their futures, took to the streets and made their voices heard.
Until November this year, I had only been to a protest as a reporter. But the student fees protest made me and some of my City colleagues join thousands of other disgruntled students as we peacefully protested at the unnecessary rise in tuition fees. (I’ll post some pics in a new page).
The atmosphere that day was electric; so many people came out because they really care about access to university, recognising the socio-economic factors like area, ethnicity and class play in getting to the top of the higher education tree.
At the start of the month, I reported from the Mumia Abu-Jamal protest outside the US Embassy in central London for The Voice newspaper (Britain’s top-selling black weekly, ahem).
Abu-Jamal was found guilty of shooting a police officer dead in Philadelphia in 1981. After 30 years on Death Row, the District Attorney thwarted the lethal injection but ruled that Abu-Jamal must serve the rest of his life in jail.
Abu-Jamal’s incarceration has become a cause-célèbre in recent years, and his followers are loyal and devoted to securing his release from jail.
But while his case didn’t make me want to don my Black Panther T-shirt and throw a tight fist in the air, his followers put forward a strong argument and I cannot fault their passion.
Here’s the story I wrote for The Voice. Viva the Protestor!
PROTESTERS picketed the US Embassy last Friday (December 9), campaigning for the release of Mumia Abu-Jamal, an American activist serving a life sentence for murder in a US jail.
Carrying placards and megaphones, over 40 supporters marched from Hyde Park to the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square, central London.
Abu-Jamal, 57, is serving a life term for shooting 25-year-old police officer Daniel Faulkner on December 9, 1981.
And 30 years to the day since the incident, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams announced he would no longer pursue the death penalty against Abu-Jamal, but ordered he must serve the rest of his life in jail.
Until Friday’s ruling, Abu-Jamal had spent 29 years on death row.
Emma Lewis, an organiser of the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Defence Campaign, first showed her support outside the embassy 29 years ago.
She said: “We are extremely happy that Mumia no longer faces the death penalty, but we expected him to be released. We thought Seth Williams would have granted him a retrial.
“Twice they have signed the death warrant, but the mass mobilisation of the communities around the world came out and protested, and America decided they weren’t going to pay the political price. We will not give up.”
Kwabena Kimathi, a member of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement (InPDUM), a group dedicated to defending the rights of the African community, said it was the first time his group had marched to the US Embassy.
He said: “This is not a matter of innocence or guilt, it’s an issue that the police in Philadelphia represent colonial occupation. It’s important for us to stand up with Mumia in the way he has stood up for us.”
Abu-Jamal’s case has garnered interest from across the globe, and during his time in prison, Abu-Jamal has written books and provided comment for newspapers and radio.
Sara Callaway, of Women in Colour – Global Women Strike, said: “It’s a credit to Mumia Abu-Jamal and his supporters that the threat of execution has finally, after 30 years, been removed. Now is the time for Mumia to be released.
“The global Occupy movement, the prisoner strikes in the US and the outpouring of compassion aimed at saving Troy Davis’ life has shown the movement is rising.”
Nine police officers attended the protest and it ended peacefully just after 7pm.
♫ Amy Winehouse - ‘Our Day Will Come’