Running Down The Walls 2023 Reportback

We’re pleased to report the success from the sixth annual Philadelphia Running Down The Walls in support of political prisoners and prisoners of war, and the movement to #StopCopCity.

Before we go any further, we’d like to give the biggest shout-out to the prisoners that participated from inside the walls. The joint inside-outside participation is one of the most important parts of this yearly event. Our inside participants this year included:

Jerome Coffey - SCI Pine Grove
Mumia Abu-Jamal - SCI Mahanoy
Paul Kali Hickman - Vaughn Correctional Center
John Bramble - Vaughn Correctional Center
Beans (Abednego Baynes) - SCI Mahanoy

With a light breeze, partial cloud coverage and temperatures staying around 75 degrees, the weather could not have been much more ideal for a 5k run/walk/roll/cheer. The first wave of what would end up being around 300 participants, began arriving around 10am in FDR park. After some time for checking in, setting up tables, and hanging banners, Sheena Sood kicked off another amazing yoga warm-up in the grassy area in front the Boathouse Pavilion.

The event was emceed by Gabe Bryant from the #FreeAnt Committee and the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home. As the yoga concluded, Gabe amped up the crowd to start the 5K, but not before having a comrade read aloud a statement in solidarity with the Weelaunee forest defenders, including those facing repression and behind bars, in honor of Tortuguita, and calling for the release of Victor Puertas.

[L]ess than two weeks ago, Georgia’s Attorney General issued RICO indictments against over 60 people who they allege to be a part of a “criminal” conspiracy to stop Cop City. And yet, the struggle continues! … This is why it is of national importance to raise funds to support the defense of the Weelaunee forest [and] fortify the struggle.

We can take action by calling for the release of Victor Puertas, who is being held in ICE detention after his arrest at a music festival in the Weelaunee Forest.

From city to city, and however long it takes, we will ensure that Cop City never gets built!

Sometime between 11:00 - 11:30am, the first contingent lined up and kicked off the run/walk/roll/cheer after a countdown. The second group doing a hybrid jog/walk took off ten minutes later, with the fastest pace group taking off ten minutes after that. Those who stayed behind cheered and handed out water as participants completed their laps. Upon the return of all three groups, we began reading aloud solidarity statements by political prisoners Eric King, and former political prisoners Jalil Muntaqim, and Ray Luc Levasseur.

In between statements we gathered for a group photo, and took time for speakers and performers. The first speaker was Russell Shoatz III–son of beloved ancestor, freedom fighter, and former political prisoner Russell Maroon Shoatz. Along with decades of work with different groups and committees in the movement to free political prisoners, he is one of the Maroon Legacy Keepers that organize the Annual Maroon Memorial and Prisoners’ Families Brunch, and the Homegrown Maroons Retreats. He spoke of his active support for Running Down The Walls since its inception, and brought forward examples of the liberation of his father and Sundiata Acoli, to demonstrate the importance of the many facets of solidarity propelled by this event.

It probably is a triple or quadruple edged sword in a lot of ways. Of course, there is the solidarity, which is probably at the top of the list. … Obviously, it is the workout and the conditioning and training. And even if we’re not conditioning training, if we just come out for one day and give ourselves some workout, the intersection with the self love there, with the workout, is heavily important there. Then the political work around the political prisoners and folks who are still incarcerated, and the fundraising that happens here, happens to support a lot of people who need the money.

[Y]esterday I was at Porchfest in New York and I was able to be chilling with Sundiata. And so that’s because of y’all. … He’s home because of this style of work. … You coming out and running brought people like Sundiata home. … I couldn’t have, my sisters couldn’t have, my family couldn’t have liberated my father without you. Without you doing this work, we could not have done it. So, again, keep coming out. Keep doing this work.

Next, we had some outstanding performances from Philly-based artist, YahNé Ndgo. YahNé is a longtime and respected organizer involved several campaigns to free political prisoners, including Mumia Abu-Jamal, Kamau Sadiki, and Imam Jamil Al-Amin. She is also an organizer of the Annual Maroon Memorial Prisoners’ Families Brunch, Homegrown Maroons Retreats, Black Lives Matter Philly, and more. The second of two songs she performed was her incendiary single Philly Work: A Rally Cry.

The final speaker was a member of MXGM Philly, talking about the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement within the larger New Afrikan independence movement, the six principles of unity, and why MXGM supports the movement to Stop Cop City.

Following were more statements read aloud from current political prisoners Oso Blanco and Xinachtli Luna Hernandez, and former political prisoner Fidencio Aldama Perez (Español).

The event concluded with some final announcements from the #FreeAnt defense committee and organizers from #SaveTheMeadows. A huge thanks went out to all of Ant’s supporters for helping to spread the word via letters, social media posts, and rallies, and for the ongoing court support. The new sentencing date is currently November 28th. Please come out in numbers and pack the courtroom, the hallways, and streets outside! The Save the Meadows crew announced an upcoming Stop Cop City solidarity event–a festival of workshops, skill sharing, and presentations taking place the following weekend.

We give many thanks to MXGM Philly for organizing this epic and empowering event with us again, and the ~300 people who participated in person or remotely–inside or outside prison–from California, Delaware, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia, and Washington, and internationally from Ontario and Japan.

We’d like to thank Unicorn Riot, Hate5six and Marcus Rivera for filming the event. We thank Food Not Bombs Solidarity for the snacks and refreshments, IWW, Socialist Rifle Association, Iffy Books, and Mobilization for Mumia for tabling, and to Latziyela and Come On Strong for their expert help printing the shirts. We thank the Save the Meadows crew and Free Ant defense committee for the announcements, Gabe Bryant for emceeing, and Sheena Sood for leading the yoga warm-up.

Together we raised $12,812 to be split between jail/legal support for folks facing repression from alleged connection to the #StopCopCity movement, and the ABCF Warchest that sends monthly stipends to 15 political prisoners and prisoners of war with little or no financial support. A full breakdown of Warchest funds in and out since 1994 is available here (updated July 2023). Funds available beyond the reserved amount needed for the monthly stipends will be disbursed as one-time donations to other political prisoners who demonstrate financial need, or to the release funds of the next comrades to come home.

We look forward to more successes in the next year as we further the struggle to free all political prisoners, and ensure that a Cop City is never built!