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
“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