They screamed obscenities. They shouted “Nazi” and “fascist.” One protester at the University of California even dropped his pants and “mooned” Dan Flynn during his speech at the Berkeley campus last week.
Radical students and “community activists” at Berkeley were disrupting the speech because Mr. Flynn believes that convicted murderer Mumia Abu-Jamal is not, as his defenders claim, a victim of racism and injustice, but instead is guilty as charged.
“Cop Killer: How Mumia Abu-Jamal Conned Millions Into Believing He Was Framed,” is the title of Mr. Flynn’s booklet, published last year by Accuracy in Academia, the Washington conservative organization where Mr. Flynn is executive director.
The tract details the evidence that convicted Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther, in the 1981 shooting of officer Daniel Faulkner of the Philadelphia police. Sentenced to death, Abu-Jamal has become a celebrity through his public-radio broadcasts and his popular 1995 book, “Live From Death Row.”
Mr. Flynn expects more protests tonight when he takes his message to Swarthmore College, an elite liberal arts school in the suburbs of Philadelphia just miles from where Mr. Faulkner died in a hail of gunfire.
“I suspect when Abu-Jamal’s followers have to fight it out through rational debate, they always lose,” Mr. Flynn said. “I think they might try to censor me, because that’s the only way they’ll be able to perpetuate their myth.”
Mr. Flynn’s speech tonight is sponsored by the Swarthmore Conservative Foundation. According to a weekly campus paper, the Phoenix, there are “no protests … planned for the event” at Swarthmore. In fact, Abu-Jamal’s supporters at the school say they welcome Mr. Flynn’s appearance.
“Anything that is going to bring attention to the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal is helpful,” Sarah Drescher, a sophomore who is one of 20 members of Just Cause, “a pro-Mumia group” on campus, told the Phoenix. “We certainly want to encourage dialogue.”
There was little dialogue at Berkeley on Sept. 27, where activists shouted epithets and chanted so loudly it was impossible for Mr. Flynn to be heard. The event was described as “an inaudible shouting match,” according to the Daily Cal, a student newspaper.
Before the event, Berkeley protesters already had torn down hundreds of fliers and stole a banner announcing Mr. Flynn’s speech. After the event, the activists seized all the copies of “Cop Killer” that had been made available for the speech and burned them outside.
This book-burning was ironic, Mr. Flynn notes, because the activists displayed placards proclaiming, “Fight Racist Censorship.”
“Apparently, my message was so dangerous to them that they felt they needed to silence me,” Mr. Flynn said. “I think their disruptions did far more to educate people about the nature of the campuses than anything I could have said. It also was an admission of just how weak the case for Mumia Abu-Jamal really is, that they would have to resort to book-burning and shouting me down, to prevent the truth from getting out.”
Death-penalty opponents and other activists remain convinced of Abu-Jamal’s innocence despite the evidence against him police found him at the scene next to his .38-caliber pistol, from which five bullets had been fired; and Abu-Jamal had been wounded by a .44-caliber bullet from the weapon of the policeman, who was slain by five .38-caliber bullets.
“For those on campus who are enamored with a life of perpetual protest, there haven’t been the type of figures like Sacco and Vanzetti, Alger Hiss or Angela Davis in recent years,” Mr. Flynn says. “So when Mumia Abu-Jamal burst on the scene about a decade ago, these people jumped at the chance of rallying to his cause.
“It mattered little to them that the mountain of evidence against their hero made the O.J. Simpson case look like a Sherlock Holmes mystery by comparison.”
Abu-Jamal remains on death row in a state prison near Waynesburg, Pa., pending a federal appeal of his execution.