The cry "Free Mumia" has become a clarion call for the anti-death penalty movement in the United States. Mumia Abu-Jamal, born Wesley Cook, was convicted of the murder of a police officer in his native Philadelphia. A radio journalist after a fashion; undoubtedly he had talent, and could have gone far, but his advocacy on certain issues led to his parting company with his employer. By December 1981, he was driving a cab when in the small hours he witnessed his brother being arrested by officer Daniel Faulkner. This was a routine traffic stop that led to William Cook punching Faulkner in the face. Why he did this remains to be seen, because at the end of the day he faced nothing more serious than assault charges. Mumia on the other hand found himself on the wrong end of a murder rap. As Faulkner fought to restrain the struggling Cook, Jamal ran over to the pair and shot the officer in the back. Faulkner managed to get off one shot in return, before Jamal stood over him and emptied his gun into the policeman's head. He was convicted and sentenced to death.
The case was challenged by an attorney named Leonard Weinglass, who brought up the possibility of a mystery gunman, police intimidation of witnesses, and the ballistics failing to match the murder weapon - which was bought legally and registered by Jamal. At the time this song was released he was still on Death Row, but later, his death sentence - though not his conviction - would be overturned.
Jamal became a prominent radio journalist, writing articles, books and even preaching sermons "live from Death Row." His cause was taken up by a galaxy of celebrities.