March 5, 2001, C. Clark Kissinger was released from three months in the
federal detention center in Brooklyn. His crime? Fighting for justice for
Clark has been a
journalist and political activist since the early 1960s. "In an earlier
life," as he puts it, "I was National Secretary of Students for a
Democratic Society and organized the first March on Washington against the
war on Vietnam in 1965." So Clark has been on the government's shit list
for a long, long time.
In recent years, Clark has been one of the leading writers and activists in
support of condemned journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal. So it was no
surprise when Clark was scooped up along with 95 other people at a
demonstration for Mumia at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia on July 3, 1999.
What happened after that is quite instructive.
Clark was issued a summons by a federal Park Ranger (complete with
Smokey-the-Bear hat) for "failure to obey a lawful order." This is a federal
Class-B misdemeanor, and is roughly equivalent to a speeding ticket.
Most people just checked "guilty" and mailed it in with a fine. But Clark
asked for his day in court.
When Clark and seven other went to trial, the judge not only found him
guilty and fined him, but put him on one year of supervised probation
with the added requirements that he turn in his passport and be restricted
from traveling outside his home federal court district for one year.
In addition, contact with convicted felons (i.e. Mumia) was forbidden.
The purpose of these restrictions was to stop Clark from continuing his
traveling and speaking on Mumia's behalf.
But Clark is hard to stop. On August 1, 2000, in Philadelphia during the
Republican Convention (the "Executioners' Ball"), there was a large
rally in support of Mumia and against the death penalty held in Thomas Paine
Plaza in downtown Philadelphia. This was part of a whole day of action
against the criminal injustice system.
|Crime scene photo: picture of the
elusive Clark Kissinger doing his dastardly deed.
C. Clark Kissinger was not supposed to be there. He had asked the judge
for permission to go and speak, but was denied. Yet someone looking
amazingly like C. Clark Kissinger, and introduced as his twin brother D.
Clark Kissinger, did speak to a cheering crowd. "D. Clark" denounced George
Bush and the way the death penalty is administered in this country, and
called on people to fight for Mumia Abu-Jamal. As a result, Clark was
sentenced to jail for 3 months. During this time he was thrown in "the hole"
three times, had his mail censored, and had his phone calls cut off when he
did radio interviews from the inmates' phones.
As far as we can tell, Clark is first person to be sent to jail by the
federal government since socialist leader Eugene Debs in 1919. His crime was
speaking out against World War I. In rejecting Clark's appeal, Federal Judge
Bruce Kauffman warned that if Kissinger's lawlessness went unpunished, it
"would lead inexorably to anarchy." Wow, we sure wouldn't want that!
Support for Clark has rolled in from many quarters. He has been nominated
for the PEN/Newman's Own First Amendment Award. In addition,
an open letter support him, signed by Terry Bisson, Kurt Vonnegut, Alice
Walker, Norman Mailer, Grace Paley, Barbara Kingsolver, Adrienne Rich
and others sums up: "It is not polite, sanctioned, or permitted speech
that the First Amendment is intended to protect. It is political dissent—and
Clark is out now and back in the movement to save Mumia-only still on
probation and under virtual house arrest until April 21. Asked what he
wanted to say to Rage fans, Clark said, "The truth won't set you free,
but it will sure make you angry! Every so often an issue comes along that
compels us all to act. The frame-up of Mumia Abu-Jamal is one of those
issues. I hope everyone will get Terry Bisson's new book On a Move, which
tells Mumia's story. Then when Mumia finally gets his day in federal court
in Philadelphia, we have to be there and make that town rock."