Free Lumumba Ford!

Following the September 11, 2001, attacks, the U.S. government put Muslim communities under siege, resorting to highly publicized arrests to promote its "War on Terror." Patrice Lumumba Ford was one of the Muslims they targeted. The government would have you believe that he is a dangerous man, a member of a "terrorist cell" in Portland, Oregon.

But who is he really? His friends and family know him as a conscientious, gentle, compassionate man. Raised in Portland, Oregon, he earned his Bachelor's in International Studies from Portland State University and did graduate work at the prestigious Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Nanjing, China. Fluent in Chinese, he married a woman he met in China; together they have one son, born in 2001.

What actually happened? As the U.S. began to bomb Afghanistan in October 2001, Lumumba and five other men traveled legally to China, using their own names and passports, and requested a visa from the Pakistani embassy at Beijing. Refused entry to Pakistan, Lumumba returned to the United States and went about his business, teaching children at his southwest Portland mosque and volunteering to help new refugees.

One year later Attorney General John Ashcroft went on national television announcing the arrest of Patrice Lumumba Ford and other members of the "Portland Seven." The following summer, a federal mediator proposed five-year sentences if the defendants would plead guilty, but the prosecution wanted them profiled as dangerous terrorists.

Lumumba finally accepted a plea agreement, the last of the defendants to do so, though he refused to further the war on terror by helping with more prosecutions. For that refusal, in November 2003, he was given a sentence of 18 years in a maximum-security federal prison on conspiracy charges as one of the "Portland Seven."

At his sentencing hearing, he read aloud a letter he had written to his infant son, explaining his disagreement with the government's decision to bomb Afghanistan:

"Son, I hope you will understand that I could no longer watch these horrible things continue to happen to other children any more than I could watch them happen to you."

The time has come to look at this harsh sentence with our current understanding: Ford was punished for his attempt to help innocent Afghani people, and the "Portland Terror Cell" was Ashcroft's scapegoat, part of an elaborate justification for the suspension of civil liberties and due process that now threatens us all.

You can send a letter of support and encouragement to Lumumba at:

Patrice Lumumba Ford #96639-011
Residential Reentry Office, P.O. Box 13901, Seattle, WA 98198 (halfway house)



NYC Jericho Movement, P.O. Box 670927, Bronx, NY 10467