“How Did You Find Out About This?”

At its annual convention last month, the California Federation of Teachers approved a host of new resolutions, including Resolution 19, which reaffirmed the union’s support for Mumia Abu-Jamal, claiming the “continued unjust incarceration of Mumia Abu-Jamal represents a threat to the civil rights of all people.”

Mumia Abu-Jamal was convicted of murdering Philadelphia police officer Danny Faulkner in 1981 and sentenced to death the following year. His nearly 30-year stint on death row has long been a cause célèbre for the left.

Faulkner’s widow, Maureen, has devoted her life to countering myths about her husband’s shooting, and she currently lives in California. Having heard about the resolution, she phoned Marty Hittelman, the president of the California Federation of Teachers. She wrote her account of the conversation in the Ventura County Star:

Thursday, I called and spoke with Marty Hittelman, president of the California Federation of Teachers, to inquire if I had the facts straight regarding its endorsement of the murderer of my husband.

During my brief conversation with Mr. Hittelman, I calmly asked him if he knew what happened the night my husband was murdered. He replied that he did not know and “he has not read any of the transcripts” yet, he believes “Abu-Mumia deserves a third trial.”

He told me that the resolution (by the teachers) only took one minute and he had not personally voted on it. I responded that it may have only taken one minute but the continuing trials, appeals and propaganda have resulted in many years of emotional distress for me and my family. He replied, “I’m sure it has.”

He also said this wasn’t supposed to get out into the press, asking, “How did you find out about this?” I replied that I found out through the newspapers and told him, “You have no idea what victims go through when they lose a loved one to murder.” At this point, Hittelman hung up on me!

Let’s assume for a moment that Hittelman’s version of the conversation may be different, and concentrate on his apparent laissez-faire view of the Mumia case and his union’s resolution. It’s curious that Hittelman would claim to have not read “any of the transcripts” since he figures prominently in a May 2000 press release by the Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal attempting to raise funds for newspaper ads (like this one that appeared in the New York Times) advocating for a new trial. He was also a signatory to the ad. Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal still exists, and Hittelman’s name still appears on the organization’s “list of supporters.”

Also noteworthy is Hittelman’s surprise that a major California union’s reiteration of support for a convicted cop-killer should receive public attention, and that passage of the resolution by the attending delegates in one minute is somehow a mitigating circumstance.

The CFT resolution also commits the union to “introduce and advocate on behalf of a resolution at the 2012 AFT Convention reaffirming the AFT’s support for justice for Mumia Abu-Jamal should he not have been cleared of charges and released by that time.”

With this much advance notice, perhaps the AFT delegates will spend more than a minute debating it.