by Jeff Mackler / June 2005 issue of Socialist Action
SAN FRANCISCO—Progressive attorney Lynne Stewart, recently convicted on false “terrorism” charges, completed a successful April 21-28 speaking tour in the Bay Area to publicize and raise money for her defense. As part of the tour, she was the featured speaker at a mass rally and concert for death-row
prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Stewart faces 30 years in prison. She was convicted on Feb. 10 in a frame-up trial by a New York federal district court jury that had been inflamed throughout
by the prosecution with crude, illegal, and false insinuations that Stewart was associated with terrorists, if not the 9/11 Twin Towers bombing.
She was found guilty on five felony charges of conspiracy to aid and abet terrorism, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and making false statements to the government, Stewart, currently on $500,000 bail, had to fight prosecution efforts to bar her from visiting the Bay Area.
The charges brought against Stewart stemmed from her 1995 representation of Sheik Omar Abdel Rachman, the blind cleric and leading opponent of the U.S.-backed Hosni Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt. Stewart's open and public act of issuing a media release on behalf of her client constituted the basis of her prosecution. Stewart spoke at 18 meetings and media engagements
organized by the Northern California Lynne Stewart Defense Committee and the San Francisco chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.
Stewart's Bay Area tour opened with a major media conference at the law offices of famed criminal defense attorney John Burris. All major media attended as Stewart presented an account of the charges against her that shook the reporters present and resulted in favorable coverage of her efforts to reverse her conviction.
Pacifica Radio's KPFA featured Stewart on its three major talk shows, “Living Room,” “Flashpoints,” and the “Morning Show.”
Stewart was the main speaker at a rally and concert that attracted more than 350 people to celebrate Mumia Abu-Jamal's 51st birthday and his 22-year struggle for freedom. She was joined on the platform by Carlos Villarreal, Executive Director of the National Lawyers Guild, Pam Africa, leader of the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, Mel
Mason, president of the Monterey Peninsula NAACP. The musical performance by Michael Franti and his Spearhead band members rocked the house.
Stewart was the opening speaker at the St. Joseph the Worker Church conference in Berkeley entitled, "From Attica to Abu Ghraib." Over 300 attended.
A dinner/reception at Barbara Lubin's Middle East Children's Alliance drew some 75 people and raised approximately $6600. A Marin Peace and Justice
Coalition forum attracted 80 people and raised about $800. Noelle Hanrahan's Prison Radio Project organized a televised session of Stewart being interviewed live from death row by Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Canadian author Professor Isaac Saney, author of the new book, "Cuba: A Revolution on the Move," joined Stewart at a San Francisco Mission Neighborhood Center forum co-sponsored by several Bay Area Cuban
solidarity groups and Socialist Action. The forum was entitled "Human Rights in Cuba and the U.S."
The San Francisco Gray Panthers organized a reception/brunch at the Unitarian Universalist Church in San Francisco. About $800 was raised, with 40 people attending. A Peninsula Peace and Justice Center reception and rally in Palo Alto attracted 110 people and raised $1000.
An enthusiastic National Lawyers Guild reception at the San Francisco firm of Levy, Ram and Olson drew 80 attorneys and legal workers and raised $3300.
Attorneys Marc Van Der Hout, Susan Jordon, Stephen Bingham, NLG Executive Director Carlos Villarreal and NLG President Noreen Farren detailed the legal stakes involved and the importance of the case to the legal
More than 50 people attended the Oakland Fellowship House African People's Solidarity Committee rally, with Lynne as a featured speaker along with Omali Yeshatela, the committee’s spokesperson.
Stewart spoke at a noon rally at San Francisco State University sponsored by several campus groups, including the Campaign to End the Death Penalty,
International Socialist Organization, and the Campus Antiwar Network. More than $300 was raised and some 40 attended, including former San Francisco Board of Supervisors president and Green Party member Matt Gonzalez, who supported Stewart’s defense efforts.
At UC Berkeley's Dwinelle Hall Stewart addressed a rally of 80 students and community members. The event—sponsored by the National Lawyers Guild campus chapter, the Berkeley Stop the War Coalition, the ISO, and others—raised $500. Pam Africa spoke at both campus events.
The tour ended with Stewart appearing live via a telecast format from Berkeley to a meeting of Cornell Law School students and faculty.
The Bay Area tour raised $13,000 for the Lynne Stewart Defense Committee, which is currently planning to publish a full-page ad in The New York Times a few weeks before her Sept. 23 scheduled sentencing date. A text is now in preparation.
Contributions can be sent to Lynne Stewart Defense Committee, 350 Broadway, Suite 700, New York, N.Y. 10013, (212) 625-9696, web: www.lynnestewart.org/.
*Jeff Mackler is the West Coast Coordinator of the Lynne Stewart Defense Committee.