PEOPLE’S ATTORNEY LIZ FINK DIES!
By ‘little Red
A legend among American ‘Radical’ lawyers, and a quintessential New Yorker, Liz Fink has passed away.
Fink passed away on Tuesday evening September 22nd.
Mentored by the late William Kunstler, Fink was a gladiator in the ring for people’s causes.
She is probably best known for her representation of the ‘Attica Brothers,’ survivors of the vicious state repression of the Attica Uprising.
In 1971, from September 9 to September 14th, prisoners at upstate Attica New York took over that facility to demand the end of cruel and abusive treatment by prison guards and its administration. Well organized, very disciplined and incredibly eloquent, the uprising’s leaders went to great pains to take good care of the prison officials who they held hostage to demonstrate the humanitarian essence of their concerns. It drew media attention from all over the world with its humane and eloquent character.
However, NY Governor Nelson Rockefeller, an aspirant for the 1972 presidential election, decided that the uprising was getting too much good press and that he was getting too much bad press. He then ordered the military assault on the nonviolent uprising that resulted in 38 deaths and legions of prisoners being seriously injured. The brutality of the assault is also well documented as many prisoners, especially the participants in the uprising, were stripped naked, lined up and savagely beaten after the facility was re-secured.
It was this graphic abuse that brought a class action lawsuit against the State of New York that put Fink in the forefront of critical legal human rights battles in the Black Liberation Movement. Fink stayed with the case and fought tirelessly for their justice until the courts granted the surviving victims a 12 million dollar settlement.
“The Attica Rebellion truly needs to be appreciated in the most serious terms,” said Zayid Muhammad of the Malcolm X Commemoration Committee.
“Not only did it trigger key reforms in prisons throughout the country, including educational and training opportunities and the hiring of Black and Latino prison guards, it was an amazing display of the humanity of the Black man in America from the lowest position in this prison nation.
“When those men, when they finally needed someone to speak for them and what they faced, they were ferociously represented by the incredible Liz Fink,” he finished emphatically.
In addition to the Ohio 7 case, Fink and Bob Boyle also represented Black Panther legend Dhoruba Bin Wahad. Bin Wahad, one of the few Panther political prisoners to secure to his release from the COINTELPRO convictions facing so many of his comrades, said bluntly and greatly pained that “ïf it wasn’t for Liz Fink, I would have never been released.”
She also negotiated a shorter prison for another people’s lawyer Lynne Stewart, when Stewart was charged with aiding the “terror activity” of her client Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman from Egypt.
She also negotiated the transfer of political prisoner Sylvia Baraldini back to her native Italy whereupon Baraldini was ultimately released.
Most recently, she secured the acquittal of a Jordanian college student, Osama Awadallah, from 9/11 terrorism charges. The prosecutor in the case was so enraged by Fink’s trademark ferocious defense of her client, he personally charged her with “jeopardizing the republic” in the middle of the case.
Fink laughed and mocked that she would like “that one on my tombstone.”