The National Conference of Black Lawyers Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Continuing the Call for the Release of all Political Prisoners

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Civil Rights leader and winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace was murdered on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee because of his leadership  in demanding human rights, including economic and racial justice. Dr. King’s threat to the United States’ status quo was deepened when he stepped beyond the demand to end rank racism in the South, as he participated in demonstrations in the Cicero community of Chicago, Illinois. He was jailed a number of times in the South as he stridently protested the racial segregation and was outspoken in his criticisms of the United States’involvement in Vietnam. Dr. King participated in a demonstration in Memphis shortly before his assassination calling for economic fair treatment for sanitation workers.

Romaine “Chip” Fitzgerald , born April 11, 1949, was a member of the Southern California chapter of the Black Panther Party. He was targeted by the FBI’s CounterIntelligence program (COINTELPRO), charged and convicted of murder. His death sentence was commuted to life without parole. He remains incarcerated in a California state prison.

Marshall Eddie Conway, born April 23, 1946, has been in prison in Maryland for over 40 years. As an officer in the Baltimore chapter of the Black Panther party, he was under constant surveillance by the FBI. There is serious concerns about the credibility of the evidence that led to his conviction. He has been active in efforts to improve the  conditions in the Maryland prisons. In 2001, the Baltimore City Council responded to the request of a coalition of organizations and unanimously passed a resolution asking the governor to pardon Mr. Conway. The governor refused to act on this resolution.

Mumia Abu Jamal, born April 24, 1956, is often referred to as the voice of the voiceless. He is a renowned author and former journalist who was also a member of the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Black Panther party. Mumia’s racially biased trial and conviction for murder resulting in a death sentence has captured the interest of numerous national and international organizations as well as individuals, who have joined the demand for a new trial. Mumia has been on death row since 1982.

The National Conference of Black Lawyers recognizes the courage and commitment to human rights, including racial and economic justice, exemplified by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His willingness to go to jail for the cause of human rights is a willingness seen in the spirits of political prisoners who, like Romaine “Chip” Fitzgerald, Marshall Eddie Conway, Mumia Abu Jamal joined in the the movement for Black Liberation. NCBL calls for the release of all political prisoners in the United States.