Michael Letwin (1956-) is a public defender in Brooklyn, New York, and a third-generation, lifelong political activist since the 1960s.
He is former President of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325 (1990-2002).
He is also affiliated with Al-Awda NY, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, MENA Solidarity Network US, and is a member of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel Organizing Collective.
In 2007, he was a member of an attorney/activist delegation to the West Bank and 1948 Palestine. In 2010, he was a featured speaker at a Palestine solidarity conference of the Irish Confederation of Trade Unions. In 2012, he was on a National Lawyers Guild delegation to investigate U.S. support of military repression against the Egyptian revolution.
He helped launch the successful campaign for Stevie Wonder to withdraw from a Los Angeles fundraiser for the Israeli military (2012), and was active in both UAW 2865’s adoption of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) and Block the Boat’s campaign to prevent Israeli Zim Line ships from docking at U.S. ports (2014).
He has also been active in Occupy Wall Street and the Black Lives Matter movement.
From 1971-1976, he was a leader of the Red Tide, Marxist high school underground newspaper and youth organization that began in Los Angeles and subsequently relocated to Detroit as youth organization of the International Socialists (IS).
From 1977-1979, he was a founding member of the International Socialist Organization (ISO).
His earlier political history includes the following:
1956-1966. Camp Midvale, NJ.
June 23, 1967. With family, among thousands of attacked by LAPD while protesting President Lyndon B. Johnson’s appearance at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles.
1968-1969. Volunteer for Eugene McCarthy presidential campaign, Transport-a-Child school desegregation program in LAUSD, Tom Bradley’s first mayoral campaign, petition to stop NBC’s cancellation of Star Trek TOS.
1969-1970. Picket captain for the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (UFWOC) grape boycott; organizer for 18-year-old vote; protests in defense of Angela Davis, Black Panther Party, and Chicago Eight (The Day After); Fall 1969 Vietnam War Moratoriums (L.A., San Francisco); First Earth Day commemoration, April 22, 1970, front lawn at 2226 Manning Ave.; April 1970 student sit-in at Emerson Jr. High in support of UTLA teacher’s strike; May 1970 student occupation at UCLA following Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia and subsequent massacres at Kent and Jackson state; support for GI antiwar movement at Camp Pendleton and Oceanside, Armed Forces Day 1970.
1970-1971 (London). 1970 Isle of Wight Music Festival; cast member, Hampstead Comprehensive School’s “Lakota” opera about 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre; South African anti-apartheid, antiwar, Palestine solidarity, Oz magazine obscenity trial defense (with John Lennon and others).
Fall 1971. Founding member of the Red Tide, Marxist high school underground newspaper at University High School, Los Angeles.
March 14, 1972. Student occupation of University High School administration building to demand right of distribute Red Tide on campus.
April 1972. Red Tide campaign against Native American mascots at University High School. (Finally removed 1997.)
April 1972-January 1973. Red Tide antiwar student walkouts; protests at UCLA and Nixon reelection HQ, Ron Kovic (Vietnam Veterans Against the War) at University High School, to protest Nixon’s escalation of bombing in Vietnam; Militant Labor Forum speaking events.
Sepember 1972. Godfather review.
1973-1974. Alliance with Socialist Collective, South Central L.A.
February 22, 1973. After long Red Tide campaign against censorship, Jane Fonda speaks against the war at University High School.
March 1973. Wounded Knee Support Committee, Los Angeles; Member, American Indian Movement relief caravan from Los Angeles to AIM occupation at Wounded Knee SD, arrested March 16 by FBI at CA/NV border.
May 1973. Red Tide Marxists debate Zionists at University High School.
August 1973. Following visit to International Socialists (GB), joins International Socialists (US).
September 1973-1974. Opposition to Pinochet’s US-backed coup in Chile.
1973-1975. Labor solidarity for United Farmworkers boycott of lettuce and Gallo wine; Farah Pants strike; Sloan Rubber strike; British miners.
January 20, 1974. Speaks for impeachment of Nixon at Los Angeles rally.
June 8, 1974. Protest of LAPD murder of Symbionese Liberation Army members.
December 1974. Red Tide protests against LAPD drug sweeps in LA schools.
December 14-15, 1974. National Secretary of as Red Tide becomes youth organization of International Socialists (IS).
1975-1977. Solidarity with Portuguese revolution.
April 7, 1975. Protest at UCLA against Israeli general Moshe Dayan.
April 1975. Attica Brothers defense campaign
May 8, 1975. Rank and file labor contingent marches in DC.
1975-1976. Defense of school desegregation against racist attack.
1975-1978. Solidarity anti-apartheid and liberation movements in southern Africa..
September 1975. Leads relocation of Red Tide from California to Detroit.
February 20 1976. Arrested for distributing Red Tide at MacKenzie High School, Detroit; later acquitted after jury trial.
February-September 1976. Red Tide campaign to Free Gary Tyler.
March 1976. Campaign against racist violence at Denby High School, Detroit.
April 10, 1976. Protest against George Wallace appearance, Detroit.
Spring-Summer 1976. Support for Autoworkers for a Decent Contract (UAW), Teamsters for a Decent Contract (IBT) and Upsurge (IBT).
October 1976. Resigns from Red Tide and moves to Cincinnati.
March 1977. Founding member of the International Socialist Organization (ISO).
1977-1978. South Africa anti-apartheid activist at University of Cincinnati and UCLA.
1978-1981. UMass-Boston: Student Strike Committee, Committee Against Tuition Hikes and Budget Cuts, Public Education Now, Student Organizing Committee, and Anti-War Committee (counter-military recruitment, Central America solidarity), April 1980 student occupation for affirmative action and other demands, Mass Media columnist.
1979-1981. Boston: Boston Coalition Against U.S. Intervention in Iran, Boston Coalition Against Registration and the Draft, protest against racist and police violence, school bus driver strike solidarity.
July 13, 1979. Resignation from International Socialist Organization (ISO).
1981-1982: New York Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador; Haiti refugee rights.
September 15, 1982. Vietnam Vets, Their War Goes On (WIN Magazine, Sept. 15, 1982)
October 1982. Counter-military recruitment, Rutgers-Newark Law School.
September 1985. Hired as public defender at The Legal Aid Society in Brooklyn.
1985-1986. South Africa anti-apartheid divestment.
July 15, 1987. An Open Letter on the Goetz Trial (City Sun, July 15-21, 1987)
August 17, 1988. Institutionalized Racism In The Criminal-Justice System (City Sun).
January 1989. Vice-President, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys.
September 29, 1989. N.Y. Justice: Not Color Blind (NY Times op-ed).
January 1990. President of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys, NYC.
Spring 1990. Report From the Front Line: The Bennett Plan, Street-Level Drug Enforcement in New York City and the Legalization Debate (Hofstra Law Review).
August 1990. Expose of Rikers Island guards’ mass beating of inmates.
August 30, 1990. Our Drug Laws Are to Blame (NY Newsday op-ed).
October 16, 1990. Wrong Way to Fight Crime (NY Times op-ed).
March 2, 1991. Labor Unionists Ad Activists Launch Peace Group (Amsterdam News).
September 5, 1991. First of many appearances as CourtTV commentator.
October 11, 1991. WCBS News Radio 88 op-ed against arming NYPD with Glock pistols.
November 21, 1991. Epidemic of Police Abuse in NYC (NYC Human Rights Commission).
May 4, 1992. About Los Angeles, This Means War (NY Newsday op-ed).
May 20, 1992. ALAA Statement on the Rodney King Beating Trial Verdict.
September 15, 1992. Affirmative Action at New York Legal Aid.
February 2, 1994. Three Strikes And You’re Out, Mario (NY Newsday op-ed).
April 18, 1994. Sentencing Angela Thompson (NY Law Journal op-ed).
October 1-4, 1994. Leads Legal Aid strike in defiance of Giuliani administration.
September 10, 1996. Attacks by Giuliani Administration on The Legal Aid Society (NLG, NCBL, CCR, NECCL joint resolution)
March 6, 1999. Giuliani’s Attack on Legal Aid (City Workers For Real Change Founding Conf.)
1999-2000. Protests against NYPD murders of Amadou Diallo.
October 23, 1999. Stop the Klan in NYC rally.
December 23, 1999. In Defense of Free Speech, Labor and Civil Rights in New York City.
December 1999. Solidarity with TWU Local 100 Right to Strike.
March 3, 2000. Statement on Police Violence & Abuse, adopted by the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys Delegate Council.
March 2000. Protests against NYPD murder of Patrick Dorismond.
March 9, 2001. P.D.’s War on Men of Color (Chief-Leader).
April 14, 2001. Fixing New York City’s Drive-By Defense Crisis (Chief-Leader).
September 10, 2001. Labor Resolution to Defend Legal Aid
September 27, 2001. Founding Statement, New York City Labor Against the War. Co-Convener.
November 18, 2001. Speaker, National Demonstration Against the War, London.
February 2, 2002. Speaker at Counter-World Economic Forum protests, NYC.
February 21, 2002. In Defense of Civil Liberties (ALAA resolution).
March 23, 2002. NYC Labor Groups Support Immigrant Detainees.
April 20, 2002. Co-convener, first post-9/11 national antiwar protest, DC.
April 29, 2002. NYCLAW Protest against Israeli Consul’s speech at Central Labor Council.
October 19, 2002. NYCLAW One-Day Organizing Conference.
May 21, 2002. End AFL-CIO Complicity with Sharon’s War Crimes.