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Lynne Stewart: The People’s “First Responder”

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    A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

    The rich have unlimited capital and all the resources of the State, which they control. “The poor and oppressed have only themselves – and a few precious ‘first responders’ of our own, like Lynne Stewart, the people’s lawyer.” Lynne Stewart celebrated her 74th birthday on October 8.

    Lynne Stewart: The People’s “First Responder”

    A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

    The following remarks were prepared for delivery at the St. Marks Theater in New York City for the 74th birthday celebration for people’s lawyer Lynne Stewart, who is serving ten years in federal prison for zealously defending her client in a terrorism case. Stewart is suffering Stage Four breast cancer, but has been denied compassionate release by the Obama administration.

    Power to the People!

    We are here to celebrate Lynne Stewart’s birthday, as an affirmation of the human will to resist injustice. Her birthday is a joyous occasion, because many decades ago she chose to interpose herself between the forces of concentrated capital and white supremacy, and the rest of us. Lynne Stewart is a “first responder” in a time of great danger to the species and to all life on Earth. The Lords of Capital on Wall Street have their own armies of “first responders” wearing uniforms of blue or green or camouflage, backed by faceless legions of spies who lay traps in order to eradicate unwanted human “networks” – treating the people like roaches. The poor and oppressed have only themselves – and a few precious “first responders” of our own, like Lynne Stewart, the people’s lawyer.

    Lynne has saved many from the clutches of the powerful – too many to mention, here – but there is one thing she could not save: the rule of law in the United States. The corporate plutocrats and the governments that serve them decided some time ago that legalities like Constitutions were no longer useful; that preserving Empire required the unfettered deployment of military and police force, mass incarceration and an infinity of surveillance. If such a regime were incompatible with the Law, as we have known it, then the Law must go.

    The privileges of the One Percent cannot coexist with due process of law for the 99 Percent.”

    The United States Constitution, which the rulers praised as a work of genius when it accommodated slavery and Jim Crow, has become too restrictive for the voracious appetites of Wall Street. Banks that are too big to fail demand impunity, not Constitutional Law – and so the Constitution must go.

    The privileges of the One Percent cannot coexist with due process of law for the 99 Percent; therefore, due process must become whatever the president says it is. And, when the imprisonment of two-and-a-half million people is not enough to calm the fears of the rich, then preventive detention by the military must become the order of the day. Ultimately, the regime sees no choice but to call out its uniformed legions to lock up the most volatile sectors of the 99 percent, while its spies make lists of the human networks that will supply the next wave of detainees. Or, the president may prefer that they compile “Kill Lists” for his perusal.

    Naturally, the people’s legal “first responders” like Lynne Stewart must be kept under lock and key at times like this. We are glad for the privilege of sharing Lynne’s birthday with her, even under such circumstances. Among all of her other accomplishments and good works, we congratulate Lynne for having outlived the rule of law in the U.S. However, the Lords of Capital may one day wish they had preserved the Constitution as they found it. Because, if Lynn Stewart cannot be allowed to be zealous in defense of her clients, then who will stand for the rich when the people’s wrath cannot be contained?

    The plutocrats have used their power to destroy the system of Law, but Justice is something different, entirely. Justice tends to arrive in a terrible storm. When the rich cry out for compassion, should the people be merciful?

    The people will ask their lawyer, Lynne Stewart, for guidance.

    For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to

    BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

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