State police have been informed of threats directed towards Goddard College, its staff and students following the school’s announcement that Mumia Abu-Jamal will give a commencement address on Sunday.
Abu-Jamal was convicted for the 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. Abu-Jamal’s 1982 death sentence was reduced to life in prison in 2011. He is serving his sentence at Mahanoy State Correctional Institution in Frackville, Pa.
Since the announcement about Abu-Jamal, Goddard has received hundreds of phone calls, about one per minute Friday, and letting all of them go to voicemail, Goddard spokesperson Samantha Kolber said. College officials were responding to only the most urgent calls, she said.
Some of the calls threatened violence and sexual assault. Police plan to investigate the source of the threats and possible criminal activity and will remain in contact with Goddard officials in the event they need immediate help, Vermont State Police spokesperson Stephanie Brackin said.
Kolber said the school plans to continue as planned with Sunday’s commencement ceremony and has security plans in place.
“Understandably people are upset. It’s a very controversial thing that’s going on and we certainly understand everybody’s feelings,” Kolber said Friday.
Abu-Jamal, an author and journalist, received a bachelor’s degree from Goddard College in 1996 while he was in prison.
The college traditionally lets each class choose its commencement speaker, and this year’s graduates chose Abu-Jamal, Kolber said. The event is not open to the public.
His address is an audio recording that will be shown simultaneously with a 10-minute slideshow of images of Goddard college and images from a documentary about Abu-Jamal by filmmaker Stephen Vittoria, Kolber said.