New York — Some 500 people gathered here at St. Peters “Jazz” Church on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, to celebrate the Dec. 31 release of 74-year-old people’s lawyer Lynne Stewart from maximum security at Carswell Federal Medical Center prison in Fort Worth, Texas, after four years behind bars.
Many of those gathered had packed courtrooms, signed petitions and attended demonstrations for Lynne Stewart over the past 12 years following her arrest in 2003, during her nine-month trial in 2005 for writing a press release and since her harsh resentencing in 2010. For the past year, they have mobilized to fight for her “compassionate release” based on the existence of 4th stage cancer.
Besides celebrating, Stewart’s supporters aimed to raise funds for her urgently needed medical care, as she was told she must wait six months before she becomes eligible for Medicare and medical care cannot begin until she is enrolled.
The highlight of the evening was the talk by Lynne Stewart herself, urging unity and increased support and solidarity for all the many political prisoners. Waves of a standing ovation and cheers greeted her. Several times during the evening, Stewart, sitting facing the audience and smiling and laughing, came to the podium to add her own comments and memories.
There were speakers and representatives from many social justice organizations, a special tribute to political prisoners and a phone message to the meeting from political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Stewart read one of her favorite poems by Seamus Heaney and commented on how it spoke to her. She spoke briefly about her health, her commitment to that struggle and to the ongoing struggle to free all political prisoners. But her sense of humor was also still evident.
Stewart’s spouse, Ralph Poynter, worked to coordinate the evening in the same hands-on way that he has kept the defense efforts alive for her during her four years in federal prison. Stewart’s family, her children and her grandchildren also participated, along with many people she has defended in past trials. The event was streamed on CPRMetro.org radio and WBAI Pacifica Radio.
It was a successful and festive event. And donations were generous; however, Lynne Stewart is still in need of support. She can be reached by mail at the Lynne Stewart Organization, 1070 Dean St., Brooklyn, NY 11216. For information on how to help, go to the LynneStewart.org website.