Thursday, April 4, 2013

DICK GREGORY TO FAST UNTIL LYNNE STEWART IS FREED

PRESS RELEASE
Contact: Ralph Schoenman, 707.552.9992; Lil Gregory, 508.746.7427
DICK GREGORY TO FAST UNTIL IMPRISONED ATTORNEY LYNNE STEWART IS FREED
 
Dick Gregory issued a declaration today, on the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., that “I shall refuse all solid food until Lynne Stewart is freed and receives medical treatment in the care of her family and with physicians of her choice without which she will die.” 
 
The 73-year-old Stewart, a renowned criminal defense attorney, is suffering from Stage 4 cancer. Gregory, known for his social activism as much as his for comedic wit and political commentary, has taken this step to reinforce the worldwide petition in support of Stewart’s application for compassionate release. Over 6,000 people, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Pete Seeger, have signed to date with the numbers growing by the minute.
 
As a criminal defense lawyer for over 30 years, Lynne Stewart defended the poor, the disadvantaged and those targeted by the police and the State. Such has been her reputation that judges assigned her routinely to act for defendants whom no attorney was willing to represent. One of these was the blind Egyptian cleric Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, who Stewart represented with co-counsels former Attorney General Ramsey Clark and Abdeen Jabara.
 
In 2002, Lynne Stewart was targeted by then-President George Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft for providing a vigorous defense of her client. She was charged with conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist activity after she exercised both her and her client’s first amendment rights by presenting a press release to a Reuters journalist.
 
In 2006, while the Department of Justice demanded a 30-year sentence, Judge John Koetl, handed down a 28-month sentence noting: “By providing a criminal defense to the poor, the disadvantaged and unpopular over three decades, it is no exaggeration to say that Ms. Stewart performed a public service not only to her clients but to the nation.”
 
That sentence, however, was not to stand as the Second Circuit Appellate Court, withdrew Lynne Stewart’s bail — even though her case is still before the courts — and remanded the case back to Judge Koetl with the harsh demand that he revisit his sentence and issue a severely enhanced one. On July 15, 2010, Judge Koeltl increased Stewart’s sentence from 28 months to 10 years imprisonment.
 
This has become a virtual death sentence for Lynne Stewart.
 
As Gregory so eloquently states: “The reason for the prosecution and persecution of Lynne Stewart is evident to us all. It was designed to intimidate the entire legal community so that few would dare to defend political clients whom the State demonizes and none would provide a vigorous defense. It also was designed to narrow the meaning of our cherished first amendment right to free speech, which the people of this country struggled to have added to the Constitution as the Bill of Rights.”
 
DECLARATION BY DICK GREGORY — APRIL 4, 2013
I hereby declare on this day commemorating the life and sacrifice of my friend and brother in struggle, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that in the spirit of his moral legacy, I demand the immediate release from prison of the legendary lawyer Lynne Stewart, who devoted her entire professional life to the poor, the oppressed and those targeted by the police and a vindictive State.
 
I further declare that from this day forth, I shall refuse all solid food until Lynne Stewart is freed and receives medical treatment in the care of her family and with physicians of her choice without which she will die.
 
There is no time to lose as cancer, which had been in remission, has metastasized since her imprisonment. It has spread to her lymph nodes, her shoulder and appears in her bones and in her lungs.
 
A criminal defense attorney in New York for over 30 years, Lynne Stewart’s unwavering dedication as a selfless advocate was acknowledged by the community as well as judges, prosecutors and the entire legal profession. Such has been her reputation as a fearless lawyer, ready to challenge those in power, that judges assigned her routinely to act for defendants whom no attorney was willing to represent.
 
In 2002, Lynne Stewart was targeted by then-President George Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft for providing a vigorous defense of her client, the blind Egyptian cleric Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman. She was charged with conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist activity after she exercised both her and her client’s first amendment rights by presenting a press release to a Reuters journalist. She did nothing more than other attorneys, such as her co-counsel former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, have done on behalf of their clients.
 
The reason for the prosecution and persecution of Lynne Stewart is evident to us all. It was designed to intimidate the entire legal community so that few would dare to defend political clients whom the State demonizes and none would provide a vigorous defense. It also was designed to narrow the meaning of our cherished first amendment right to free speech, which the people of this country struggled to have added to the Constitution as the Bill of Rights.
 
The prosecution and imprisonment of Lynne Stewart is an ominous threat to the freedom, rights and dignity of each and every American. It is the agenda of a police state.
 
I ask you to join with me to demand freedom for Lynne Stewart. An international campaign has been launched with a petition that supports her application for compassionate release. Under the 1984 Sentencing Act, the Bureau of Prisons can file a motion with the Court to reduce sentences “for extraordinary and compelling reasons.” Life threatening illness is foremost among these and Lynne Stewart meets every rational and humane criterion for compassionate release.
 
Join with me, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Pete Seeger and 6,000 other people of conscience throughout the world who have signed this petition to compel the Warden of the Federal Medical Center, Carswell and the Director of the Bureau of Prisons to act. Act now. There is no time to lose.
 
The petition (below) can be found online at the Justice for Lynne Stewart website: www.lynnestewart.org or at
 
PETITION TO FREE LYNNE STEWART: SAVE HER LIFE – RELEASE HER NOW!
Lynne Stewart has devoted her life to the oppressed – a constant advocate for the countless many deprived in the United States of their freedom and their rights.
Unjustly charged and convicted for the “crime” of providing her client with a fearless defense, the prosecution of Lynne Stewart is an assault upon the basic freedoms of us all.
After years of post-conviction freedom, her bail was revoked arbitrarily and her imprisonment ordered, precluding surgery she had scheduled in a major New York hospital.
The sinister meaning of the relentless persecution of Lynne Stewart is unmistakably clear. Given her age and precarious health, the ten-year sentence she is serving is a virtual death sentence.
Since her imprisonment in the Federal Prison in Carswell, Texas her urgent need for surgery was delayed 18 months – so long, that the operating physician pronounced the condition as “the worst he had seen.”
Now, breast cancer, which had been in remission prior to her imprisonment, has reached Stage Four. It has appeared in her lymph nodes, on her shoulder, in her bones and her lungs.
Her daughter, a physician, has sounded the alarm: “Under the best of circumstances, Lynne would be in a battle of the most serious consequences with dangerous odds. With cancer and cancer treatment, the complications can be as debilitating and as dangerous as the cancer itself.”
In her current setting, where trips to physicians involve attempting to walk with 10 pounds of shackles on her wrists and ankles, with connecting chains, Lynne Stewart has lacked ready access to physicians and specialists under conditions compatible with medical success.
It can take weeks to see a medical provider in prison conditions. It can take weeks to report physical changes and learn the results of treatment; and when held in the hospital, Lynne has been shackled wrist and ankle to the bed.
This medieval “shackling” has little to do with any appropriate prison control. She is obviously not an escape risk.
We demand abolition of this practice for all prisoners, let alone those facing surgery and the urgent necessity of care and recovery.
It amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of human rights.
There is immediate remedy available for Lynne Stewart. Under the 1984 Sentencing Act, after a prisoner request, the Bureau of Prisons can file a motion with the Court to reduce sentences “for extraordinary and compelling reasons.” Life threatening illness is foremost among these and Lynne Stewart meets every rational and humane criterion for compassionate release.
To misconstrue the gravamen of this compassionate release by conditioning such upon being at death’s door – released, if at all, solely to die – is a cruel mockery converting a prison sentence, wholly undeserved, into a death sentence.
The New York Times, in an editorial (2/12), has excoriated the Bureau of Prisons for their restrictive crippling of this program. In a 20-year period, the Bureau released a scant 492 persons – an average of 24 a year out of a population that exceeds 220,000.
We cry out against the bureaucratic murder of Lynne Stewart.
We demand Lynne Stewart’s immediate release to receive urgent medical care in a supportive environment indispensable to the prospect of her survival and call upon the Bureau of Prisons to act immediately.
If Lynne’s original sentence of 28 months had not been unreasonably, punitively increased to 10 years, she would be home now — where her medical care would be by her choice and where those who love her best would care for her. Her isolation from this loving care would end.
Prevent this cruelty to Lynne Stewart whose lifelong commitment to justice is now a struggle for her life.
Free Lynne Stewart Now!
- Ralph Poynter and Family

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Missing Quote from the King Memorial

"The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own Government...I cannot be silent." - Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

By Don DeBar

While the insiders in Washington parse the meaning of the paraphrased words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. regarding his own epitaph, his true legacy - the one that many believe led to his murder - has been whitewashed from the King Memorial entirely.

Speaking at the Riverside Church in New York City, exactly one year - to the day - before he was shot and killed in Memphis, Dr. King announced that he was expanding his focus on America's national shame of segregation to include its international crime of war on the people of Vietnam:

"(I)n the ghettoes of the North over the last three years -- especially the last three summers, (a)s I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they ask -- and rightly so -- 'what about Vietnam?' They ask if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent."

The King Memorial lists a total of 15 direct quotes and a paraphrase (currently in controversy) from Dr. King's words; yet, curiously, this particular quote - which ties together the struggle for social and economic justice at home with the actions of the government abroad in an elegant and profound way - did not make the list.

Here are the quotes which appear on the Inscription Wall of the Memorial:

"We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." (16 August 1967, Atlanta, GA)

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that." (1963, Strength to Love)

"I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant." (10 December 1964, Oslo, Norway)

"Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in." (18 April 1959, Washington, DC)

"I oppose the war in Vietnam because I love America. I speak out against it not in anger but with anxiety and sorrow in my heart, and above all with a passionate desire to see our beloved country stand as a moral example of the world." (25 February 1967, Los Angeles, CA)

"If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective." (24 December 1967, Atlanta, GA)

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly." (16 April 1963, Birmingham, AL)

"I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits." (10 December 1964, Oslo, Norway)

"It is not enough to say 'We must not wage war.' It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it. We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but on the positive affirmation of peace." (24 December 1967, Atlanta, GA)

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." (25 February 1967, Los Angeles, CA)

"Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies." (4 April 1967, Riverside Church, New York, NY)

"We are determined here in Montgomery to work and fight until justice runs 'down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.'" (5 December 1955, Montgomery, AL)

"We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience." (16 April 1963, Birmingham, AL)

"True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice." (16 April 1963, Birmingham, AL)


Within the list, there is one quote which deals directly with the Vietnam war, two that deal directly with war, and others that deal, in one way or another, with issues of war and peace in general. One is lifted from the Riverside speech.

Inscribed on the Stone of Hope are two statements - one, a direct quote, the other, the paraphrase of his words that is at the center of the present controversy:

The first, from the "I Have a Dream" speech, is "Out of the Mountain of Despair, a Stone of Hope"-the quotation that serves as the basis for the monument's design. The words on the other side of the stone read, "I Was a Drum Major for Justice, Peace, and Righteousness," which is a paraphrased version of a longer quote by King: "If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter." The memorial's use of the paraphrased version of the quote has been criticized (Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther_King,_Jr._Memorial#Inscriptions).

Nowhere on the monument is there any mention of Dr. King's clearly-stated indictment of American foreign policy as being intrinsically evil (above); nor is there any mention that America's wars are the cause of economic hardship at home:

"There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor -- both black and white -- through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated, as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So, I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such."

At the dedication of the King Monument last October, President Barack Obama invoked the words of Dr. King - some of them - without even mentioning war:

"When met with hardship, when confronting disappointment, Dr. King refused to accept what he called the 'is-ness' of today. He kept pushing towards the 'ought-ness' of tomorrow.

"And so, as we think about all the work that we must do –- rebuilding an economy that can compete on a global stage, and fixing our schools so that every child -- not just some, but every child -- gets a world-class education, and making sure that our health care system is affordable and accessible to all, and that our economic system is one in which everybody gets a fair shake and everybody does their fair share, let us not be trapped by what is. We can’t be discouraged by what is. We’ve got to keep pushing for what ought to be, the America we ought to leave to our children, mindful that the hardships we face are nothing compared to those Dr. King and his fellow marchers faced 50 years ago, and that if we maintain our faith, in ourselves and in the possibilities of this nation, there is no challenge we cannot surmount."


Obama even went so far as to impute to Dr. King words that, if the record is any indication, are mere sterile parodies of the words of this Nobel Peace Prize winning minister:

"If he were alive today, I believe he would remind us that the unemployed worker can rightly challenge the excesses of Wall Street without demonizing all who work there; that the businessman can enter tough negotiations with his company’s union without vilifying the right to collectively bargain. He would want us to know we can argue fiercely about the proper size and role of government without questioning each other’s love for this country -- with the knowledge that in this democracy, government is no distant object but is rather an expression of our common commitments to one another. He would call on us to assume the best in each other rather than the worst, and challenge one another in ways that ultimately heal rather than wound."

Not a word about "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today" - this is particularly odd when one considers that the US is now currently involved in more war and destruction, in more places and involving more people, weaponry and expense, than at the time Dr. King uttered those words in 1967.

As to the shared status with the President as a fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner, in contrast to the Commander-in-Chief's actions over the past three years, Dr. King said:

"I cannot forget that the Nobel Peace Prize was also a commission, a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for 'the brotherhood of man.' This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances, but even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I'm speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all men -- for Communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the One who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to the Vietcong or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this One? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?"

Quite a different interpretation of the charge that comes with joining the company of other Nobel Peace Prize winners than that demonstrated by the man who sat silent during the siege of Gaza ("Only one President at a time"), expanded the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan into Pakistan, Libya, Bahrain, Syria and, soon, Iran. Could we imagine Dr. King conducting - or sanctioning - a six-month bombing campaign for "humanitarian reasons"? Or might he instead feel compelled to speak out:

"And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond in compassion, my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the ideologies of the Liberation Front, not of the junta in Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them, too, because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries.

"They must see Americans as strange liberators."

"Strange liberators," indeed...

Friday, October 28, 2011

Musings on OWS...

In the Michael Moore movie "Capitalism: A Love Story" there is a scene where a white couple get evicted after foreclosure from her (the wife's) family's farm. She says something that betrays the nature of OWS in a profound way as including (if not consisting entirely of, at this point) a petit bourgeois/white privilege response.

I deliberately avoided using "reaction" because I think that that is only one aspect of its potentiality, as I will explain.

"I've lost a piece of my heritage...," she says. "Why do you do this to the hardworking people? Why do you take everything away from them? We're just middle-classed (sic, but this form has its own meaning) hardworking people trying to make a living, just trying to survive."

It is important to understand that while she was enjoying her "heritage" (privilege), others were not; rather, they were working and suffering in support of such privilege. She obviously saw that others experiencing her pain were likely NOT "hardworking people" and didn't act to stop it then, perhaps even saw stopping it as inappropriate - no problem to "take everything away" from THEM - they must not have earned what she had. She's middle-classED - meaning she was PLACED there, according to the American Dream narrative, by God and personal industriousness. And now she feels her survival is threatened.

The potential and dangers of the moment are laid bare here, and solutions begin to present themselves as well.

These people - the most recent arrivals to the "99%" - need to be LED by working people. REAL working people.

And those need to be led by Black and Brown people, who have been experiencing this condition, in the main, since the country was founded - and before.

Perhaps Occupy Oakland - if its constituency becomes personned BY ALL communities in Oakland - can take the lead in the OWS 'movement' a la the Petrograd soviet, the first, and prominent, workers' council that became the model for the early USSR. In Oakland, they are already seeing a solidarity general strike involving unions.

If ACTUAL Oakland joins and takes leadership, Occupy Oakland can and will move in the right direction, and provide an example to others as well. Ditto ATL.

BUT the majority has to join, and AS a majority. THAT is the key point.

Consider: The vector in wealth over 1973-2011 represents the impoverishment of the "middle class" whereas the vector in wealth previously represented primarily white privilege and then the basic capitalist contradiction of owner and worker below that.

OWS etc has all the newly impoverished as soil, but there is a truckload of people of color and white wage-workers who need to see that OWS can and should be theirs. Much of the wealth of the former middle class was previously extracted from this truck load. The new members of the "99%" need to know and understand that, and recognize how that previous situation led to this one, that the impoverishment of others led naturally to their own impoverishment.

And then the "new" members need to take leadership from the veterans of poverty and oppression. Whether or not that happens will determine the nature, and thus, the direction, of this "movement."