The nation's largest police group is calling for a boycott of Rage Against the Machine and the Beastie Boys to protest their support of convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.
"We're going to reach out to a lot of people and ask them to spread the word that Rage Against the Machine shouts out 'Free Mumia' in their concerts," Tim Richardson, legislative assistant for the Fraternal Order of Police, said Thursday (Aug. 19).
The FOP, which boasts a membership of 283,000 law-enforcement officers, announced a general boycott of Abu-Jamal supporters Aug. 11, and is still compiling its full list of targets, Richardson said.
Thrash-rockers Rage Against the Machine and punk-rappers the Beastie Boys have been marked for inclusion because of a January concert they headlined to raise money for Abu-Jamal's legal defense. Abu-Jamal has been on Pennsylvania's death row for nearly two decades, convicted of murdering a Philadelphia police officer.
Richardson said the organization also is examining the views and actions of R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe, ex-Talking Heads leader David Byrne and former Police leader Sting, who were among dozens of celebrities who signed their names to an advertisement in the New York Times in 1995. The ad called for a new trial for Abu-Jamal on the grounds that his original trial was unfair.
"We want to provide our members and the general public with the information they need to inflict economic punishment on the supporters of this cop-killer," FOP National President Gilbert Gallegos said in a statement.
Gallegos said the organization will not rest "until Abu-Jamal burns in hell."
Richardson said the FOP, which opposes a new trial for Abu-Jamal, won't boycott those whose support of Abu-Jamal stemmed only from anti-death-penalty sentiments. Rather, they are more interested in protesting those who support Abu-Jamal personally.
A Byrne spokesperson declined to comment, and representatives of Sting (born Gordon Sumner) and Stipe did not return calls.
Spokespersons for the Beastie Boys and Rage Against the Machine did not return calls for comment either.
The benefit show the two bands headlined Jan. 28 at Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J., sparked police protest. Hundreds of fans returned their tickets as a show of their support for police. Around 16,000 people paid $25 apiece to see Rage and the Beasties as well as punk group Bad Religion and rappers Black Star, according to an arena spokesperson.
Beastie Boy Adam Yauch told the audience, "Mumia did not receive a fair trial. That's something everybody in this country should be concerned about."
Rage Against the Machine, who have long been active in political causes, played in front of an upside-down American flag spray-painted with the words "Free Mumia." The band dedicated that night's performance of the song "Freedom" to Abu-Jamal.
The FOP's website (www.grandlodgefop.org) will maintain a regularly updated list of Abu-Jamal's supporters, according to a statement from the organization.
Abu-Jamal, a journalist, was convicted of the Dec. 9, 1981, murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. He insists he is innocent, and some of his supporters claim he was set up because of his work as a political commentator and because of his involvement with the Black Panther Party, a black-activist organization.
Jessica Blank, events coordinator for Mumia 911, a group organizing a "National Day of Art" in support of Abu-Jamal's cause, said police are "being bullies about it."
"It's one thing to organize a boycott, and it's another thing to organize a boycott when you're the police," Blank said. "These are armed people, people in position of authority and power, saying what music you can and can't listen to. ... It's ultimately a very dangerous thing."
Blank said the Fraternal Order of Police is organizing the boycott now because of increased attention on Abu-Jamal, who has run out of appeals on the state level and will begin federal appeals in the fall.
"They want to hurry his execution along," she said.