William Kunstler on political action
November/December 1995

The last public political speech by radical attorney William Kunstler was on July 27, 1995 at Verso Books in Manhattan at an event to address the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. Not long afterward, Kunstler died. He ended the speech with the following:

"There is a time to act. There is a time to break the law--wasn't that how we were formed in the first place? Don't we celebrate that, every July? How we shot British soldiers down at Concord and Lexington, how we burnt British flags, and now we're tinkerng with an amendment to make that a crime. I propose to someone that that prison be surrounded with people, that we be out there, and they hear those feet again. Because, just to paraphrase Franklin D. Roosevelt, the only thing they have to fear is us. And that's the truth of the matter. There is only one thing that moves government, on any level--utter, stark fear. And if you will recall when Richard Nixon sent the troops into Cambodia in April of 1970 to look for Viet Cong strongholds and shelters in that country, the U.S. went on a tear that culminated, as you know, in four young people being shot down at Kent State, in two at Jackson State, and in the closing down of 300 colleges and universities. And it forced the President of the U.S. to walk to the Lincoln Memorial, where students were gathering, and tell them he was withdrawing the troops from Cambodia, because he was scared shitless. And that is the only thing that moves them--not whether you vote for them tomorrow, or the next day. Electoral politics doesn't really bother them that much. They always think that there are enough lunatics out there to vote them back in. And as you know, the lunatics are running the asylum right now. So all of us have to do what we have to do. Some of us do things that others will not. In Chicago I remember Dave Dellinger saying, "Some of you may break the law, some of you may write letters to the editor; in-between there may be varieties of actions. Do what you can do, what your conscience, your will, your state of mind can lead you to do. But do it."

The world will sorely miss William Kunstler. Good lawyers are few and far between.

Reprinted from Just Peace, newspaper of the Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice, P.O. Box 90035, Gainesville, FL 32607. Individual memberships (subscription included) are $15 to $35, on a sliding scale; Organizational memberships, $35 to $60.

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