NLG-NYC denounces renewed attacks on Assata Shakur

May 3, 2013

The New York City Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG-NYC) denounces the renewed attacks on Assata Shakur (s/n Joanne Chesimard) by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and law enforcement authorities in the State of New Jersey. The FBI has designated the 65-year old former Black Panther Party member a “terrorist” and increased the bounty for her capture to $2 million.

Assata Shakur is a former member of the Black Panther Party in New York City. That organization, which advocated community control and self-determination in the Black community, was the chief target of the FBI’s infamous counterintelligence program known as “COINTELPRO”. According to documents released in the 1970’s, COINTELPRO’s stated goal was to “expose, misdirect, destroy and neutralize” Black political organizations and their leadership. The illegal and unconstitutional program resulted in the police murder of scores of BPP members, including Fred Hampton and Mark Clark in Chicago, and the frame-ups and wrongful convictions of many others, such as Geronimo Pratt and Dhoruba Bin Wahad, both of whom spent two decades in prison before their frame-ups were exposed. Many former Panthers remain in prison today.

Labelled by law enforcement as a leader of the Black Liberation Army (BLA), by 1973 Assata was listed as a suspect in virtually dozens of acts where a Black woman was thought to have been involved. After her May 2, 1973 arrest, she was tried repeatedly for armed robberies and assaults, and each time was either acquitted or the charges were dismissed.

Her May 2, 1973 arrest and conviction were the product of a New Jersey State Police “stop” for an alleged traffic infraction. Police opened fire, killing Panther leader Zayd Malik Shakur. As trial evidence showed, Assata raised her hands but was shot once in the front and again in the back. She was left to die on the road. Another Panther in the car, Sundiata Acoli, was wounded, was able to escape, but was captured a few days later. Assata was charged with felony murder on Trooper Forrester, who also died in the shootout. She was convicted by an all-white jury and sentenced to life. She escaped custody in 1979 and thereafter went to Cuba. In the 1980’s that government, after concluding that Assata faced political persecution in the United States, granted her full asylum in accordance with international law.

The determining factor in labeling Assata Shakur a “terrorist” was the FBI’s assertion that she continues to espouse radical, revolutionary and “anti-U.S.” ideology. This candid observation by the FBI is in accordance with its continuing COINTELPRO operation. According to a 1969 FBI document, one of COINTELPRO’s goals was to insure that “the Negro youth and moderate must be made to understand that if they succumb to revolutionary teaching, they will be dead revolutionaries.” The FBI’s action is an attack on Assata Shakur. But it is also an attack on all those who believe in and advocate for fundamental change in the social order in the United States. Advocating for freedom, human rights and self-determination and against racist police attacks is not terrorism. It is a fundamental right guaranteed by the First Amendment and international law.

We call on the U.S. government and State of New Jersey to rescind its bounty on Assata Shakur. We further demand that all efforts to secure her extradition cease and that her political asylum be respected. We further urge that Sundiata Acoli (s/n Clark Squire), who is over 70 years old and who has been incarcerated for over 40 years, be released to parole supervision.

The National Lawyers Guild is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has members in every state.

National Lawyers Guild Calls Twitter Subpoena Improper

Contact: Pat Levasseur [email protected]

February 6, 2012, New York City – A National Lawyers Guild attorney today filed a motion to quash a subpoena issued to Twitter for details on the Twitter account of an Occupy Wall Street protester.

Read a copy of the Motion to Quash here.

“Attempting to use the criminal courts as a tool for a broad investigation into the free speech activity of Occupy protesters is improper and an abuse of subpoena power,” said NLG attorney Martin R. Stolar who is representing Malcolm Harris. “This is an unwarranted invasion into a protester’s right to privacy and an infringement on his Constitutional rights.”

The subpoena was issued to Twitter on January 26 by New York District Attorney, Cyrus R. Vance. It demands that Twitter appear in court as a witness in the criminal proceeding against Occupy Wall Street protester, Malcolm Harris and to provide “any and all user information, including email address, as well as any and all tweets posted for the period of 9/15/2011- 12/31/2011” associated with his Twitter account.

Mr. Harris was arrested along with approximately 700 Occupy Wall Street protesters, on the Brooklyn Bridge on October 1, 2011. He is charged with disorderly conduct which is a violation: an infringement of the law that is not at the level of seriousness to be considered a crime. The range of dates listed in the subpoena begins two days before the first day of the Occupy Wall Street protests  – over two weeks before the Brooklyn Bridge events when Mr. Harris was arrested.

“There is simply no justification for seeking such a broad swath of electronic data as part of prosecuting a minor charge related to one event on a discreet date. This is yet another example of the City of New York overstepping the boundaries of the law in order to chill the legitimate political expression of critics of government policies,” said Mr. Stolar.

The National Lawyers Guild is providing legal observers and free criminal defense for people in the Occupy movement. The New York City Chapter has provided attorneys in nearly 2,200 arrests since the Occupy Wall Street movement began on September 17, 2011.

The National Lawyers Guild is a non-profit federation of lawyers, legal workers, law students and jailhouse lawyers. Since 1937, Guild members have been using the law to advance social justice and support progressive social movements to the end that human rights shall be regarded as more sacred than property interests. The Mass Defense Committee (MDC) of the New York City Chapter was created in 1968 to provide legal support to the anti-racist and anti-Vietnam war movements. The MDC trains and dispatches legal observers to protect First Amendment rights of expression by documenting police misconduct and arrests of protestors at political demonstrations and coordinates pro bono Guild lawyers to represent protest arrestees in court. More information is available at


National Lawyers Guild-New York City Chapter (NLG-NYC) Muslim Defense Committee Commemorates the Anniversary of the Egyptian Revolution and the Ongoing Struggle of the People of Egypt


Bina Ahmad, 608-658-4228
Beena Ahmad, 917-806-1997

National Lawyers Guild-New York City Chapter (NLG-NYC) Muslim Defense Committee Commemorates the Anniversary of the Egyptian Revolution and the Ongoing Struggle of the People of Egypt

NLG-NYC Muslim Defense Committee demands the end of U.S. aid to the Egyptian military

NEW YORK (January 25, 2012) – Today marks the one-year anniversary of the Egyptian revolution, the popular challenge that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak from his thirty-years of brutal dictatorship. The revolution inspired and sparked other democratic uprisings throughout the globe, including the Occupy movement.  We commemorate and honor our Egyptian brothers and sisters for this once seemingly impossible feat, and stand in solidarity with their ongoing struggle for democracy and human rights in Egypt.  Since the revolution began one year ago, hundreds of Egyptians have been violently killed and thousands wounded at the hands of Egypt’s military, the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF).  The Egyptian military, once seen as supportive of the revolution has now revealed its true colors as it attempts to undermine the people’s movement through secret decision-making, violent crackdowns on the civilian population using prohibited weapons – such as U.S. made torture tools – against peaceful protesters, continuance of military tribunals for civilians, kidnapping of revolutionaries, and refusal to cede power to the people.

As U.S. lawyers, legal workers, and activists, we condemn the U.S. government’s financing of the Egyptian military, through monetary aid as well as the sale of weapons used against peaceful protesters.  We call on the U.S. government to immediately cease all exports to Egypt of U.S. made tear gas, weapons and torture tools used by the Egyptian military against peaceful Egyptian protesters.

The erosion of democracy in Egypt mirrors our own. The recent passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) empowers our armed forces to enter in civilian law enforcement and selectively suspend both due process and habeas corpus for terror suspects, including U.S. citizens, captured on U.S. soil even outside of an armed conflict zone.  It is no coincidence that President Obama would sign such a law here while maintaining military and financial support of the Egyptian military who also rob their people of their most basic rights through indefinite detention and torture.  As we see the ever shrinking democracy in our own country, we stand alongside our Egyptian brothers and sisters in fighting to reclaim our most basic human rights and freedoms.

The National Lawyers Guild, founded in 1937, is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has chapters in every state.

# # #

PRESS RELEASE: Rights Groups Urge City to Halt Illegal Restrictions at Zuccotti Park

Jennifer Carnig, 212.607.3363 / [email protected]
NLG Contact, Gideon Orion Oliver, 212.766.8050

Rights Groups Urge City to Halt Illegal Restrictions at Zuccotti Park


January 9, 2012 – Arbitrary and inconsistently applied rules and security measures restricting the public’s access to Zuccotti Park violate city zoning laws, the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the New York City chapter of the National Lawyers Guild argued today in a letter to the New York City Department of Buildings.

The groups urge Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri to promptly address the violations and ensure that Zuccotti Park is open and accessible to all members of the public on an equal basis.

“Right now, Zuccotti Park is a public space in name only,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “The metal barricades, security checkpoints and selectively enforced rules not only raise serious constitutional concerns, they violate city zoning laws. We expect the city to ensure that the park is managed in a manner consistent with its own laws.”

Metal barricades have encircled Zuccotti Park since the NYPD cleared the Occupy Wall Street encampment there on Nov. 16. The public can only enter the park through two gaps where security personnel selectively subject people to searches.

The groups maintain that these security measures and the constantly changing, selectively enforced and unwritten park rules violate zoning laws, longstanding city policies, and park-owner Brookfield Properties’ legal obligations under a 1968 special zoning permit that established the park as a “permanently open park” for “the public benefit.”

In its letter, the groups present a list of these violations. Among them:

The metal barricades encircling the park violate a city voting law requiring at least 50 percent of the plaza’s frontage be unobstructed with unrestricted access to all walkways through the park.

The barricades and checkpoints interfere with the public’s use and enjoyment of the park, in violation of Brookfield’s legal obligation to maintain the space as a “permanent open park.” People are reluctant to enter an area encircled by metal police barricades.

The barricades constitute a major design modification to the park. Under zoning law, such modifications must go through a city approval process, which has not occurred.

Security personnel have prohibited individuals from bringing an ever-changing list of items into the park, including food, cardboard signs, musical instruments and yoga mats even though the park’s written rules do not prohibit any particular items from entering the park. The written rules only apply to prohibited conduct.

“In a statement issued by Mayor Bloomberg explaining his decision to evict peaceful protesters from Zuccotti Park, the mayor noted that ‘we must never be afraid to insist on compliance with our laws,’” said NYCLU Senior Staff Attorney Taylor Pendergrass. “That is precisely what we are asking the City to do now—comply with its own laws and restore the park to its role as a functioning public space open to all New Yorkers.”

“First Amendment freedoms are particularly vulnerable to selective enforcement by the government,” said Baher Azmy, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. “Like the constitution, City zoning law also recognizes that in New York City’s public plazas, members of the public cannot be selectively targeted for the enforcement of patently unreasonable restrictions.”

“Brookfield and the City must remove these restrictions and restore Liberty Park to the people immediately,” said Gideon Orion Oliver, president of the National Lawyers Guild – New York City Chapter. “Every day they refuse to do so, they compound the irreparable harm they have done – and continue to do – to our First Amendment freedoms.”

In addition to the complaint filed today, others have made similar complaints to the Department of Buildings. The Department of Buildings’ online complaint website shows an open complaint regarding the barricades at Zuccotti Park, and the group “whOWNSspace” states that nearly 100 additional complaints have been filed by other individuals asking the Department of Buildings to investigate the ongoing zoning law violations at the park.

To read the full letter, visit


BREAKING NEWS – Judge Orders Protesters Be Allowed Back in Park With Their Belongings

For Immediate Release: November 15, 2011


Yetta Kurland – 917-701-9590
Daniel Alterman – 917-945-2599
Gideon Oliver – 646-263-3495
Margaret Kunstler – 917-331-8012

New York, NY: At around 6 AM on November 15, 2011, attorneys associated with the New York City Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild working as the Liberty Park Legal Working Group obtained a temporary restraining order against the City of New York, various City agencies, and Brookfield properties directing that occupiers be allowed back on the premises with their belongings.

Earlier, at approximately 1 AM, the NYPD began massing around Zuccotti Park “aka Liberty Park.” In the following hours reports surfaced that the NYPD entered the park with police in riot gear backed up by numerous police vehicles, including a bulldozer, evicting occupiers. In the process they destroyed property and arrested dozens of occupiers and protestors including NYC Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez and District Leader Paul Newell.

In the coming hours, days and weeks the LPLWG will pursue all legal options to enable the occupiers to continue to exercise their first amendment rights to speech and assembly for speech. Attorney Yetta Kurland, one of the attorneys from the LPLWG, said, “This is a victory for everyone who believes in the First Amendment. We will continue to fight for everyone’s right to continue the occupation.” In response to the injunction, Daniel Alterman, also an attorney with the LPLWG, stated that, “This is a victory for all Americans, for the constitution and for the 99%.” Gideon Oliver, another attorney with the LPLWG reacted by saying, “The LPLWG has been fighting to ensure their right to free speech from day one of the occupation. The occupiers right to free speech is based in our most core legal principles and we will be here till the end to fight for those rights.”

The order is available for download here.

The Liberty Park Legal Working Group is a group of volunteer attorneys and legal workers dedicated to defending the rights of those engaged in constitutionally-protected assembly or protest.