NLG-NYC and CCR Call on New York Assembly to Oppose Anti-Boycott Bill

By Chapter Coordinator, January 31, 2014 6:15 pm

NLG-NYC and CCR Appeal to New York Assembly to Oppose Anti-Boycott Bill

Advocates Argue Bill Violates First Amendment

January 31, 2014, New York – The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the National Lawyers Guild- New York City Chapter (NLG-NYC) sent New York Assembly Members a letter urging them to oppose pending legislation that would deny state funding to colleges and universities that fund membership and activities in organizations supporting boycotts of a list of countries, including Israel.  According to the legislation’s sponsors, the bills S.6438 (passed in the state Senate on January 28) and A.8392 (on the agenda of the Assembly’s Higher Education Committee February 4th) were drafted in response to the American Studies Association’s recent resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions.

“The New York legislature’s anti-boycott bills are unconstitutional, a threat to academic freedom, and a disgrace,” said Maria LaHood, Senior Staff Attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights.  “The bills’ sponsors have not even tried to veil their intent to stop concerned citizens from using a nonviolent and historical tool for social change, because it’s aimed at Israel’s policies.”

The CCR and NLG-NYC letter urges lawmakers to recognize that denying state aid based on such protected speech violates the First Amendment and threatens academic freedom.  It stresses that boycotts to bring about political, social and economic change are protected speech under the First Amendment, and warns that legislation to deny public funding in response to the assertion of unpopular views would likely face Constitutional challenges.  The letter also notes that legislation to punish boycotts of the South African apartheid regime “would have been an unacceptable outcome then, and it is an unacceptable outcome now.”

“Regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with a cause that a boycott is addressing, or whether a boycott is an appropriate way to address that cause, the First Amendment right to engage in a boycott aimed at bringing about political and social change must be upheld and protected,” said Elena Cohen, President of the NLG-NYC.

The American Studies Association endorsed a resolution in December, 2013 to boycott Israeli institutions in protest of the Israeli occupation and Israel’s discriminatory laws and policies towards Palestinian students and scholars in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and inside Israel.  The ASA resolution calling for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions is available here, and an explanation of the resolution is available here.

See the full letter to Assembly Members.

See CCR’s statement on the bill’s passage in the New York state senate.

For more information on the legality of academic boycott, please see Palestinian Solidarity Legal Support’s frequently asked questions.

 

NLG-NYC Announces Historic Settlement in RNC 2004 Civil Cases

By Chapter Coordinator, January 15, 2014 4:54 pm

On January 15, 20014, RNC 04 civil plaintiffs, their attorneys, and members of the legal support team, including NLG Legal Observers, held a press conference on the steps of City Hall to announce the settlement in the 2004 RNC civil cases.  The settlement is the largest in U.S. history arising from the mass arrests of protesters.  Read the full Statement by Attorneys for the Plaintiffs here.  Former Chapter President, Martin R. Stolar, pictured, spoke on behalf on the NLG-NYC. Read his remarks here. The press release by the NLG-NYC can be read here.

 

The NLG-NYC Celebrates the Return of our Freedom Fighter Lynne Stewart!

By Chapter Coordinator, December 31, 2013 7:08 pm

The New York City Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild celebrates the victory of our long battle to free fellow member and radical defense attorney Lynne Stewart.  This morning, the government filed papers requesting what the Guild has long been fighting for, the compassionate release of our sister and comrade Lynne Stewart.  Lynne, now 74, is dying of cancer, and has been given a prognosis of less than 18 months to live. Late today, Judge Koeltl granted the government’s request and Lynne’s release is imminent.

We commend the government for requesting her release and hope that it will make similar requests on behalf of the many federal prisoners that qualify for compassionate release under its own guidelines.

Lynne Stewart has been held at the Carswell Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas, since her 2005 outrageous conviction for “material support for terrorism”. That charge was based upon an interview Lynne had with a Reuters reporter that expressed the political views of her incarcerated client, Dr. Omar Abdel Rahman.

As members of the radical legal community, the Guild fought for our sister in struggle, pushing against the government’s attempt to silence Lynne and isolate her case from public discourse. While the government attempted to use her case to instill fear in others who defend the oppressed and advocate for dignity and human rights, Lynne stood her ground, just as she stood her ground defending those the rest of the world had long abandoned: Muslims, people of color, and those the government labeled “terrorists.”  Lynne did not shy away from placing her client’s cases in the larger political context under which they occurred, whether it be the so-called “war on terror” that has been used internationally to justify wars and indefinite detention, or domestically to justify larger police budgets and funding of the prison industrial complex.

While we applaud Lynne’s imminent release, we cannot forget others that still languish in our prisons, from Leonard Peltier and Oscar Lopez Rivera, to Mumia Abu Jamal and Jeremy Hammond. We call for their release and the release of all of our political prisoners.  For her courage and strength to defend and fight for others at the expense of her own liberty, we are forever indebted to our freedom fighter, Lynne Stewart, we welcome our sister home with open arms and celebrate this long fought victory.

Listen to Bob Boyle’s interview about today’s developments with Democracy Now! with producer Renée Feltz: http://www.democracynow.org/blog/2013/12/31/breaking_fed_govt_asks_judge_to

Read the Government’s Motion for Lynne Stewart’s Compassionate Release: http://www.scribd.com/doc/194875625/Lynne-Stewart-Motion

 

 

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