The nation's largest police group has added David Byrne, Sting, Michael Stipe and Chumbawamba to its boycott list, based on those artists' support of convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.
The Fraternal Order of Police will post the list on its website (www.grandlodgefop.org) later this week, FOP legislative assistant Tim Richardson said Monday (Aug. 30).
Rock band Rage Against the Machine and various other musicians are on the list, which is meant to single out "those persons and corporations that are attempting to keep [Abu-Jamal] from receiving the justice he deserves," Jerry Atnip, national secretary for the FOP, said in a statement.
Abu-Jamal, a journalist who was convicted of murdering Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner in 1982, has been on Pennsylvania's death row for nearly two decades.
The FOP, which boasts a membership of 283,000 law-enforcement officers, announced a general boycott of Abu-Jamal supporters Aug. 11. A week later Richardson said that rap-rockers Rage Against the Machine and punk-rappers the Beastie Boys had been marked for inclusion in the boycott because of a January concert they headlined to raise money for Abu-Jamal's legal defense.
Richardson said Monday it was unclear whether the Beastie Boys would remain on the boycott list, which was largely culled from signatures on two letters in support of Abu-Jamal published in the New York Times in August 1995 and October 1998. Both ads called for a new trial for Abu-Jamal on the grounds that his original trial was unfair.
R.E.M. singer Stipe, ex-Talking Heads leader Byrne and former Police frontman Sting (born Gordon Sumner) all signed the 1995 letter, while anarchist pop-collective Chumbawamba and Rage Against the Machine signed the 1998 letter, according to the FOP.
Folk legend Pete Seeger, singer Bobby McFerrin, veteran singer/actor Harry Belafonte and Peter Yarrow, one-third of the '60s folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary, who signed at least one of the letters, are also on a boycott list provided by Richardson, as is Sting's wife, Trudie Styler.
The extensive list is dominated by celebrities from outside the music world, ranging from model/actress Naomi Campbell to French literary theorist Jacques Derrida.
"We are doing the research and compiling the list of those who are supporting [Daniel Faulkner's] killer. ... We must use all diligence to assure that we are accurate in doing so. We do not wish to compromise Brother Faulkner's or the Grand Lodge's integrity and credibility by placing someone on this list unfairly or inaccurately," Atnip said in his statement.
Jessica Blank events coordinator for Mumia 911, a group organizing a "National Day of Art" in support of Abu-Jamal's cause said recently that 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 positions of authority and power, saying what music you can and can't listen to. ... It's ultimately a very dangerous thing."
At the Jan. 28 benefit show headlined by Rage Against the Machine and the Beastie Boys at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J., 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 played in front of an upside-down American flag spray-painted with "Free Mumia." The band dedicated that night's performance of the song "Freedom" (RealAudio excerpt) to Abu-Jamal.
Abu-Jamal insists he is innocent of Faulkner's murder, and 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.
The FOP opposes a new trial for Abu-Jamal. The group's president, Gilbert Gallegos, wrote in a statement that the organization would not rest "until Abu-Jamal burns in hell."