LYNNE STEWART: PEOPLE’S LAWYER, FREEDOM FIGHTER PRESENTÈ!
[col. writ. 3/8/17]
Lynne Stewart, after 78 winters in America, has died, after battling for years against breast cancer.
But that was just some of her battles, and like most of us, she won some, and lost some. But she never stopped fighting!
For decades, she and her husband, Ralph, fought for New York’ site political activists and revolutionaries, like Black Panthers and Young Lords–a Puerto Rican socialist collective. But mostly, they fought for the freedom of the poor and dispossessed of New York’s Black and Brown ghettoes.
She–they–fought often and fought well in the city’s courts.
Her husband, Ralph, was a stalwart of the Black Panther Party, and her most committed defender.
When Lynne was targeted by the US Justice department, and she was tried and convicted for putting out a press release for her client, the blind Egyptian sheikh, Omar Abdul Rahman, Ralph stood in the hot Washington, DC sun, with a sign in front of the White House, demanding his wife’s release.
Her defense of her client was in the best tradition of criminal defense lawyers, and she received significant support from a broad swath of the Bar–from lawyers-yes; judges, no.
Initially sentenced to 28 months, the 2d Circuit sent it back for resentencing-and she got 10 years!
Her support only grew.
The late activist lawyer, Bill Kunstler once opined that defense lawyers should be officers of their clients, instead of officers of the court.
Lynne Stewart was an officer of her clients; a People’s Lawyer, beloved and respected.
May she ever be so.
March 10, 2017
Lynne Stewart AP/Mark Lennihan
On March 7, Lynne Stewart died peacefully at her home in her beloved Brooklyn with her family at her side. As many know, Lynne was ordered released from federal prison on Dec. 31, 2013 after a legal and political campaign to win her compassionate release due to her ongoing battle with breast cancer. Doctors from both behind the wall and in the street predicted she would succumb to the disease in six to 18 months. Through strength and determination, she lived for more than 36 months and was able to spend time with family and continue the work for justice that characterized her entire life.
I first came to know of Lynne in the 1980s when she defended one of several black and white activists charged with violating RICO laws. Her skill won an acquittal for her client, Bilal Sunni Ali. In 1985, we both were part of a defense team for a group of white activists who became known as the “Ohio 7” on trial in Brooklyn federal court. Working with Lynne and the other members of the team, including Bill Kunstler and Liz Fink, both also gone, was an education for me that no law school or CLE could come close to duplicating.
What many do not know is that Lynne was a “full service” lawyer. If you were her client, she not only fought brilliantly in court, she felt it was her responsibility to take care of her clients’ needs: clothes, making sure the clients had commissary money, facilitating visits with family. On more than one occasion, she hired former clients or members of their family to work in her office when they had no other income. At other times, she took clients and/or the children of clients into her home when they had no place to go. Lynne had a big heart. Since her release and especially in the last few months of her life, Lynne and her husband and partner Ralph Poynter increasingly urged those of us in the activist-lawyer community to dedicate ourselves to fighting racism and injustice. Our finest tribute to Lynne will be to make that a reality.
Robert J. Boyle
View the original letter here (PDF): http://lynnestewart.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/LYNNE-STEWART-tribute-Jihad-Abdulmumit.pdf
Dear Comrade Sister Lynne,
I heard the news about your passing; but now I’m not quite sure. After a wave of sadness, I called Ralph. Although his voice was somber, his words were strong and determined. “We have to double our efforts to get all of our sisters and brothers out of prison!” I listened compassionately. He was giving me orders! Marching orders! Lynne’s orders! I sat for a moment processing our conversation. Daggone you Lynne Stewart – frontline warrior, wife warrior, mother warrior, attorney warrior, friend warrior, warrior warrior; in the courtroom sitting when you were expected to stand and standing when they wanted you to sit; advocating and objecting to the judge’s injustices. From prison you wrote me, Jihad, you need to organize the Muslims to get Imam Jamil, Maumin, Jalil, Aafia Siddiqui, and all the other Muslim Political Prisoners out. Form a Muslim Caucus! Get them involved! We gotta do something more than what we are doing! After a Ralph-led full frontal assault, they let you out of prison with the high expectation of 18 months to live. You cheated death then and you’re cheating it now. You’re not dead; you’re very much alive. You are living through each and every one of us who continues to struggle against any and all forms of injustice, state violence, racism, oppression, exploitation, and inhumanity. We hear your laughter and pointed remarks; your courageous analysis, your courageous actions, your courageous presence speaking truth to a tyrant, any tyrant. You were not afraid to call an ace an ace, a chump a chump, a friend a friend and an enemy an enemy. I pray I have that spark when I reach 77. (I’m still not sure whether you and Ralph were serious when we were at the ABC Conference in Colorado a few years ago and you said you wanted to get up early in the morning and work out and exercise with me). Thank you for representing us; for taking our cases; for demanding the freedom of all Political Prisoners. Thank you for being there! You and that brotherman of yours. You are such a profound inspiration. Keep on giving them orders and we’ll talk again soon!
Link to audio of Jaan reading “Farewell thoughts to my friend Lynne Stewart”, from Prison Radio: http://www.prisonradio.org/media/audio/jaan-laaman/farewell-thoughts-my-friend-lynne-stewart-235-jaan-laaman
“Farewell thoughts to my friend Lynne Stewart” from Jaan Laaman, political prisoner
With a sunny sky outside, and a “Day Without Woman Strikes” and other very positive and powerful events taking place all across the United States and around the world, I am sitting quietly and sadly reflecting on the life of my friend Lynne, who died last night.
There is so much that can, and probably will be said about this dynamic and wonderful woman. For decade Lynne Stewart was a, if not the, preeminent human rights, civil rights, peoples’ lawyer, boldly fighting for justice, equality, and freedom in many of the most important and widely reported cases in the United States.
Lynne truly was fearless and could not be intimidated by prosecutors, judges or FBI and other gun-toting goons. She believed in, and fought for Constitutional rights and equal justice. She always fought for her clients.
Lynne was not only brave and determined, but she was a brilliant attorney. She also was very hard working, doing the necessary research and innovative paperwork that often forced the courts to accept her arguments.
Lynne touched so many people and lives in large and dynamic ways, in personal, caring and nurturing ways. As a lawyer, Lynne was a very significant part of the legal team for all of us Ohio-7 people in our many trials. Beyond just her work and skill as an attorney, Lynne was also there for our children and families. As a small boy, my son Ricky always stayed at Lynne’s home when he came to visit me and his mother while we were being held in MCC New York. Lynne was our family friend, as well as a sister and a comrade in the struggle.
So many people will miss you, Lynne, your guidance and wisdom, your concern and care. the love you had for the people and the freedom struggle is only matched by the love so many people, freedom fighters included, have and will continue, to have for you.
Rest easy my sister. We will shed our tears for you then firm up our hearts and spirits and continue in the revolutionary freedom and justice struggle that you contributed so much and uniquely to.
“Did you say I’ve got a lot to learn
Can strings push?
We wake with watch hands
nickel-slick enemies know it’s
“Finding Paths, Forging Links In
Flipping tassel, flinging mortarboard skyward—
Entering from Tahrir Square,
Signaling us to become
Signaling us to become
Lynne Stewart Scholars come matriculate:
Raymond Nat Turner © 2017 All Rights Reserved
RIP Lynne Stewart, People’s Lawyer & Fmr. Political Prisoner; Watch Her Interviews & Release in 2014 (Democracy Now!)March 10th, 2017
View all the interviews as well as Lynne’s release in 2014: https://www.democracynow.org/2017/3/8/rip_lynne_stewart_peoples_lawyer_fmr
From Telesur (Venezuelan English-language TV):
Stewart, originally sentenced to 28 months in prison, was resentenced on July 10, 2010, to 10 years in prison, but continued to fight a government frame-up.
After suffering a major stroke on March 1, Lynne Stewart died Tuesday evening at home, after being granted a compassionate release from prison three years ago due to fourth-stage breast cancer.
Stewart devoted her law practice to defending the poor, underprivileged, unwanted and forgotten, according to her partner Ralph Poynter.
The human rights attorney was arrested on April 9, 2002, on charges of helping pass messages from her client, Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, an Egyptian cleric convicted of masterminding the 1993 World Trade Center attack in New York City, to his followers in al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, an organization designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S.
Stewart was subsequently convicted for conspiracy and providing material support to terrorists, while her felony conviction led to her automatic disbarment.
Her sentence was characterized by many as an attempt by the U.S. government to silence dissent, curtail vigorous defense by lawyers, instill fear in those who seek to help Arabs and Muslims being prosecuted for free speech and defend the rights of all oppressed people.
Attorney Leonard Weinglass, said of her incarceration, “The Lynne Stewart case is the case that’s going to mark this era as the era of the war on terrorists, which includes the war on lawyers who defend those who are accused of terrorism. To put her behind bars when no one was injured, no one was harmed, when those who produced the torture memos, those who produced the war are going free and even prospering is really the irony of our time.”
Stewart fought false accusations and a government frame-up. Originally sentenced to 28 months in prison, she was resentenced on July 10, 2010 — in an unprecedented move after her bail was suddenly revoked — to 10 years in prison for showing an alleged lack of remorse after her initial sentencing.
In a statement after her release on Dec. 31, 2013, Poynter said, “The enduring global movement for social justice has persevered — ever inspired by Lynne Stewart’s steadfast refusal to bend the knee, submit to coercion or official duplicity.”
Photo from: Susan M Reverby (thank you!)
From WBAI News – Four-minute audio clip (with long quotes from Ralph after Lynne’s passing): http://www.wbai.org/articles.php?article=3373
Just a few of the many tributes that have been pouring in on Facebook, email, and other venues:
I have known a hero in my lifetime, I have laughed with and cried with and shared the righteous rage with a hero. I got to hug a hero, stand at her wedding and find shelter in her home. See her babies grow up and eat pie with her. She casts no shadows, only light now. A woman who gave herself to struggle for decades. A heart, a strong and loving heart that beat so hard for so many, death cannot stop it. Her spirit goes to the reward for loving warriors, there is a significant part of her city, and the nation and beyond that, who feels this loss tonight. Oh captain, my captain.
THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU HAVE DONE FOR THE PEOPLE
We salute Lynne Stewart, longtime friend of CCR, who was the very definition of a people’s lawyer and who passed away yesterday. We send our love and condolences to her partner Ralph Poynter, who was always by Lynne’s side everywhere she went, and to her entire family. We were honored to have Lynne as a guest speaker at several recent CCR events, including the Law for Black Lives convening in 2015. Lynne exuded love and fiercely advocated for justice, and CCR aspires to that example which she set for all of us.
Check out this clip of Lynne’s visit, along with her partner Ralph Poynter, to the closing session of CCR’s Ella Baker summer intern program in 2014. Introduction by CCR’s Ian Head: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCiFDmdmFjs