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Bands play to fund Mumia Abu-Jamal's appeal

January 28, 1999
Web posted at: 11:20 p.m. EST (0420 GMT)

EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (CNN) -- A controversial concert was held in a state-owned arena Thursday night to help fund the defense of a man convicted of killing a police officer.

The Beastie Boys, Rage Against the Machine and Bad Religion headlined the $30-a-ticket concert. Some of the performers defended what they were doing.

"Let me say straight up that tonight's benefit is not to support cop killers or any other kind of killers," said Zack De La Rocha of Rage Against the Machine.

The concert could gross up to $400,000. And all the bands have said they will donate their profits to the legal fund of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a black former radio reporter on Pennsylvania's death row for the 1981 killing of a white Philadelphia police officer.

Abu-Jamal has said he was railroaded by an unfair judge, by police who he claims coerced a witness and by a jury stacked with whites. His supporters are raising money to fund an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court for a new trial.

Concertgoers show their support for Abu Jamal  

Abu-Jamal was convicted in the shooting death of Daniel Faulkner, 26, who had stopped Abu-Jamal's brother for a traffic violation. Police found the dying officer and a wounded Abu-Jamal lying near his own gun.

Greg Graffin, lead singer of Bad Religion, has said the bands were trying to raise awareness about the racial inequities in the use of the death penalty. "We also believe Mumia should be given a fair trial," he said.

Outrage and pain

News of the purpose of the concert outraged many -- from the New Jersey State Troopers forced to provide security at the event -- to the brother of the slain police officer.

Rage Against the Machine was one of the bands that performed  

"It's like the dagger was put into us 17 years ago and one more time ... it's just being turned and hurting us again," said Kenneth Faulkner.

He and a New Jersey police union had called for a boycott of the concert. State authorities had also searched for ways to stop the show but said attorneys had advised them the promoters had a legal right under the First Amendment to stage the event in a public venue.

Ironically, New Jersey is expected to profit from a share of the concert proceeds, up to $75,000. However, a state senator has proposed a bill to give the state's proceeds to families of slain police officers.

Correspondent Maria Hinojosa and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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