If the bands playing a benefit concert for death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal were hoping to raise awareness for their cause, they succeeded long before the first chord was struck.
News of the controversial show, which takes place tonight (Jan. 28) at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N. J., has been splashed across the airwaves, in newspapers and, of course, across the Internet for more than a week now.
No doubt fueled by New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman's plea for fans to not attend the concert and an unprecedented 2,000 requests for refunds (500 of which had yet to be resold Thursday afternoon, according to event organizers), Beastie Boy Adam Yauch has taken to cyberspace to defend his band's involvement in the event. In a letter posted on the band's web site on Jan. 27, Yauch, who is the guiding light behind the annual Tibetan Freedom Concerts, explained why the Beasties wanted to take part in the Mumia benefit, despite the fact that Abu-Jamal had been convicted for the 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner.
"First of all, I would like to send my condolences to the family of the officer who lost his life," Yauch wrote. "This concert is in no way trying to justify the killing of anyone, police officer or otherwise. To take someone's life is a very serious and tragic crime." Instead, Yauch sees this concert -- which features Rage Against the Machine, the Beastie Boys, Bad Religion, members of Chumbawamba and Black Star -- as being critical of the U.S. judicial system, specifically the death penalty. He also raises doubts about whether or not Abu-Jamal ever received a fair trial.
"One of the principles that this country is based on is that everyone is entitled to a fair trial by a jury of their peers. Without that we would be living in a police state ... Wouldn't each of us want the same if we were accused of a crime? And if he is innocent, then by allowing his death sentence to be carried out without insisting on a re-trial, we will be participating in murdering an innocent man. What could be the real harm in a re-trial? If he is guilty then surely the evidence will prove it. If not, then we need to get the man off death row, and out of jail. In any case let's take the time to find out."
Check back tomorrow for a full report on the controversial benefit.