by Oakland Teachers for Mumia and Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal
Sen. Sanders, you have spoken out against the depredations of Big Pharma, refused to take donations from any of them, and call for “Medicare for all.” You’ve also spoken to support the Black Lives Matter movement.
Currently in Pennsylvania there is a case before a federal court which embodies both of these battles. And a suit has been filed to force the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and through it the pharmaceutical industry to provide drugs at cost as needed for 10,000 Pennsylvania inmates, overwhelmingly people of color, who suffer from Hepatitis C.
In the past several years, pharmaceuticals have been developed that have a cure rate of up to 99 percent for this silent epidemic. The drug is owned by Gilead Sciences, though it wasn’t invented by them. Gilead is charging $1,000 a pill in a course of treatment that can run up to $110,000 for three months.
Certainly no inmate, working for $3 a day, can ever hope to buy these life-saving drugs. And several state prison systems including Pennsylvania are refusing to provide it because the cost busts their budgets even though their refusal means that the affected inmates live in a state of misery and face death.
On Jan. 27, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced she is investigating whether Gilead’s price gouging constitutes an “unfair business practice” under state law.
In what the New York Times, in “Curing Hepatitis C, in an Experiment the Size of Egypt,” called “a complicated deal to sell hepatitis drugs at a small fraction of their usual cost while imposing tight restrictions intended to protect lucrative markets in the West,” Gilead is charging the government of Egypt, where Hepatitis C is endemic, $10 a pill.
The Pennsylvania suit, Abu-Jamal vs. Kerestes, has been brought by America’s most prominent political prisoner, Mumia Abu-Jamal. He is suing to force the Department of Corrections to immediately provide him treatment with the Hep C drug.
Abu-Jamal almost died last year. Hep C raised his blood sugar level to a deadly high of 779, putting him nearly into diabetic shock and caused a painful skin disease. Should he prevail, it will strengthen the case in the separate suit brought on behalf of all 10,000 inmate Hep C sufferers, a suit Abu-Jamal supports. Black lives matter, inside and outside the Prison-Industrial Complex!
In 1999, the Congressional Black Caucus went on record calling for a new trial for Mr. Abu-Jamal, framed and falsely convicted of murdering a Philadelphia policeman in a case so laden with racism that the presiding judge, Albert Sabo, said “Yeah, and I’m going to help ‘em fry the nigger.” Martin Luther King III joined a delegation to the White House in January 2000 to support Abu-Jamal, whom he called “an innocent man.”
Just recently, you sat down with Killer Mike, Nina Turner and Dr. Cornel West to speak about Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy. Dr. West has been one of the foremost advocates for Mr. Abu-Jamal’s freedom and is among those featured in “Mumia, Long Distance Revolutionary,” the DVD documentary film directed by Stephen Vittoria.
Most tellingly, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), in a Jan. 21 letter to Pennsylvania Gov. Wolf signed by NUMSA General Secretary Irvin Jim calling for immediate medical treatment for Mumia and his freedom, said:
“This denial is a brutal attack on his health and his fundamental rights to care. The refusal of health care reminds us of the conditions we were put in under Apartheid prisons, where sick detainees were allowed to die in very deplorable lonely conditions in solitary as part of the punishment for their role in the struggle.”
You spoke out on Sandra Bland. Sandra Bland’s murder and the murders of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Walter Scott and, in San Francisco, Mario Woods were on-the-spot expressions of the general political, judicial and police attitude that Black Lives Don’t Matter in the U.S. However, Mumia Abu-Jamal’s case is one – on the part of both the Pennsylvania state authorities and the federal judiciary – of conscious, pre-meditated murder, first by the death penalty, now by deliberate medical mistreatment.
It is an attempt to permanently silence a Black revolutionary as a civil jury in Memphis found in 1999 that government agencies including the CIA, FBI, U.S. Army and Memphis police conspired and carried out the assassination of Dr. King.
Wadiya Jamal, Mr. Abu-Jamal’s wife, has said: “This rotten ass system has made many attempts on my husband’s life when his only crime is that on Dec. 9, 1981, he survived a cop’s gunshot to the chest through his lungs to the liver, a serious ass whipping by cops on the street of 13th and Locust, then cops surrounding his hospital bed stepping on his urine bag making the poison go back up into his body.
“He is innocent in the murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner – and the cops on the scene all knew that. But Mumia was convicted for a murder he did not commit and sentenced to death.”
To be consistent in speaking for justice and against the systematic racism and abuse of the judicial and penal system by American capitalism through its political and law enforcement officials, your voice must be heard in the case of Mumia Abu- Jamal and against Gilead. An innocent man must walk free and the 3,000,000 victims of the deadly Hepatitis C virus in the U.S., including 700,000 inmates, must receive the immediate, proper, low-cost life-saving treatment that they, as human beings, have a right to.
As we said at a Hep C coalition demonstration against a “health conference” for investors held last month in San Francisco by bankster JP Morgan, at which Gilead Sciences was a featured participant, “Public Health, Not Corporate Wealth.”
Please note that we will be sharing this with groups and individuals who share our concerns.
Contact Oakland Teachers for Mumia at firstname.lastname@example.org and Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal at P.O. Box 16222, Oakland, CA 94610.