Category Archives: Uncategorized


From #BlackLivesMatter to #StandingRock, from #NoBanNoWall to the #InternationalWomensStrike, join us as we discuss a grassroots movements to recognize #Palestinian liberation as a central component of intersectionality, and how as progressives can be the force to tear down every wall, barrier, and oppressive obstacle!

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ROUND TABLE DISCUSSION: “From Palestine to Mexico, All the Walls Have Got to Go!”


ROUND TABLE DISCUSSION: “From Palestine to Mexico, All the Walls Have Got to Go!”

From #BlackLivesMatter to #StandingRock, from#NoBanNoWall to the #InternationalWomensStrike, grassroots movements for human liberation increasingly recognize #Palestinian liberation as a central component of intersectionality.

Join some of the leading representatives from these movements to discuss how we can deepen coalition building and a united front within mushrooming resistance in the Trump era.

WHEN: Wednesday, March 22nd
6:30 PM: Reception with refreshments
7:00 PMRound Table starts promptly

WHERE: Formerly Johnie’s Coffee Shop 
6101 Wilshire Blvd, (at Fairfax) Los Angeles, CA 90048


MODERATOR: Garik Ruiz, the North America Liaison for the Palestinian#BDS National Committee (BNC), the largest coalition in Palestinian civil society. He works with local and national partners throughout North America to support BDS campaigns and be a direct link for local organizers back to the BNC leadership in Palestine. Garik spent 6 months in Palestine at the height of the second Intifada in 2002 and 2003 working with Palestinians resisting the occupation non-violently through the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). LA-based Garik has been deeply involved in local struggles for racial and environmental justice over the years.


Amani Al-Hindi Barakat, Palestinian-American community organizer, refugee born in Kuwait, and originally from the village of Tantoura in the suburbs of Haifa. Currently the National Chair of Al-Awda the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, and a board member of the newly launched Palestine Foundation; organizer of many of So-Cal Palestinian Solidarity actions.

Alfredo Gama,
 member Papalotl Brown Berets; undocumented (illegal) youth organizer; organizer of many of the recent large immigration #NoWallNoRaid protests in the Los Angeles area.

Robert Gardnerstudent activist; member of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at UCLA, who has been targeted by ultra rightwing Zionists for his activities; a senior studying Political Science, African American Studies, and Urban Planning.

Nana Gyamfi, member and co-founder of Justice Warriors 4 Black Lives, a network of attorneys and non-attorneys dedicated to providing legal support for the Movement for Black Lives, which includes BLMLA; represented all the BLMLA members who were arrested/had court cases/went to trial from 2014 – 2016; will continue to represent BLMLA members who ask for representation. 

Michael Letwin, 
NYC public defender; former president, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW 2325; 1960s-1970s L.A. youth activist (Red Tide); co-founder of New York City Labor Against the War, Labor for Palestine, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, Labor for Standing Rock.

Lydia Ponce, organizer with American Indian Movement-SoCal; Idle No More LA; lead organizer of all the many #NoDAPL protests in LA.

Ameena Mirza Qazi, Executive Director of the LA chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. A civil rights attorney and activist; she has worked on free speech, social and economic justice, discrimination, First Amendment, equal protection, and procedural due process issues, including #NoWallNoBan.

Al-Awda the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, American Indian Movement (AIM) So-Cal, California for Progress, Idle No More LA, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, Labor for Standing Rock and LA4Palestine, March and Rally Los Angeles.


2015.10.16: Local’s Family Caught in Middle East Violence (NBC 7 San Diego)

Screenshot 2015-11-06 15.55.34
Local’s Family Caught in Middle East Violence

Hatem Mohtasab says he came to San Diego to study construction engineering so he can have a better future. Now he’s concerned about the future of his family in Jerusalem after his father suffered a gun shot wound from the ongoing conflict. NBC 7’s Omari Fleming reports.


2015.09.10: Leon Letwin dies at 85; UCLA law professor, activist and Angela Davis defender (L.A. Times)

Leon Letwin (1929-2015)

Los Angeles Times, September 10, 2015

Leon Letwin dies at 85; UCLA law professor, activist and Angela Davis defender

Although Letwin later backed away from the party, he spent the rest of his life fighting for social justice. In the courts, the longtime UCLA law professor helped win important cases involving the rights of criminal defendants and high school journalists. On campus he helped defend Angela Davis when she…

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2015.08.29: Angela Y. Davis: Honor Leon Letwin By Reinstating Steven Salaita

Leon Letwin (1929-2015)

The following message from Angela Y. Davis was presented at the celebration of Leon Letwin’s life, held at UCLA on August 29, 2015.

Angela Davis, 1969

To the Family and Friends of Leon Letwin,

I wish I could be with you in person as you collectively evoke the phenomenal life and legacy of Leon Letwin. Although I am not able to be present today, I do want to offer a few reflections. I knew Leon as a man who helped to inform trajectories of social justice for more than a half century, and specifically as one of the driving forces behind the UCLA campaign that defended my right to teach. Shortly after I arrived on campus, facing a torrent of anti-communism unleashed by the Regents’ decision to fire me, it was Leon, as chair of the Committee on Equal Opportunity, who stepped up to write an official letter…

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2015.07.13: Leon Letwin (1929-2015)

Leon Letwin (1929-2015)

Leon PixPhoto credit: Rick Clarke

An expert on evidence, civil procedure and constitutional law, Leon Letwin was on the faculty of UCLA Law School for more than fifty years. A lifelong social justice activist, he pioneered law school affirmative action programs, was an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War, and was at the forefront of defending the rights of political protesters, criminal defendants, high school students, and many others.

Family Background

Leon Letwin was born on December 29, 1929 to Bessie (née Rosenthal) (1898-1987) and Lazar Letwin (née Litvak) (1892-1957), who came from the Jewish shtetl (town) of Mogilev-Podolski in the Ukraine. His parents had participated in the Russian Revolution of October 1917, and narrowly escaped an anti-Semitic pogrom during the ensuing civil war by fleeing across the frozen Dniester River into Romania. Arriving in Milwaukee in 1921, they joined the fledgling Communist Party, and later opened Letwin’s Grocery…

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2015.05.16: An Appreciation of Mike Marquee (1953-2015)


An Appreciation of Mike Marqusee (1953-2015)
By Michael Letwin
May 16, 2015

[The following was presented at a celebration of the life of Mike Marqusee, held at Conway Hall, London, on May 16, 2015.]

Mike and I didn’t know each other all our lives, but we could have. He was just a few years older than me, we both from leftwing Jewish families in the US, in our teens involved with the black freedom and antiwar movements of the Sixties, high school revolutionary journalism, the anti-apartheid movement, Palestine solidarity, Marxism, and we both ended up in Britain, me in 1970, he in 1971.

Despite these parallels, we didn’t meet until the dark days after 9/11, when Mike sought out those of us from New York City Labor Against the War. We were so glad to find each other. At his invitation, I came over to speak at the November 2001 antiwar rally in Trafalgar Square, and for a tour of American antiwar activists in this very room, as the Iraq war began in 2003. He sent us Jeremy Corbyn to speak at the first national US antiwar protest in April 2002, and we brought Mike himself to speak at the massive NYC antiwar rally on 15 February 2003.

Central throughout were common efforts against Zionism, including defense of Gaza, the BDS movement, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, and an unshakeable belief in one democratic, secular state throughout historic Palestine, from the river to the sea, with equal rights for all.

To all this, Mike brought not only brilliant analysis, but an unshakeable hope, as reflected in a message he sent me on February 19, 2013, so strikingly reminiscent of Trotsky’s words shortly before his own death so many years earlier:

“One thing I feel more certain of than ever is this: that the greatest privilege in my life, apart from the love of those who love me, has been taking part in the global movement for social justice (or whatever we want to call it).  For a long time I was very hung up on the various political failures and  disappointments I’d experienced. But whether it’s thanks to cancer, or just the turning of the world all those seem pretty minor (though not painless) compared to the scale of our struggle, the scale of the forces lined up against us and the scale of our goals (human emancipation). I wouldn’t have missed this for the world and I feel sorry for those who have missed out.”

I was always inspired by Mike, and am very thankful to know he and Liz, who so generously welcomed me to their home.

Earlier this week, I was at home with Liz and his niece Hannah, visited his memorial bench in Stoke Newington, and felt Mike’s presence, as strong as ever. Clearly Mike is very much here today, and he always be.

2014.12.17: Defense Lawyers March In Brooklyn To Protest Police Killings (CBS New York)

CBS New York

Defense Lawyers March In Brooklyn To Protest Police Killings


Eric Garner (credit: CBS2)

In Brooklyn, public defenders and other lawyers marched at courthouses and a prosecutor’s office and staged a die-in outside a city jail. They later stood in front of a criminal court, chanting, “Black lives matter” and “I can’t breathe,” a reference to the last words of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old Staten Island resident who was killed in July.

In Philadelphia, a group of lawyers participated in a die-in at the Criminal Justice Center.

Defense Lawyers March In Brooklyn To Protest Police Killings

Demonstrators Gather In Philadelphia To Protest Eric Garner Grand Jury Decision
Rich Lamb reports

Decisions by grand juries to not bring charges against police officers in the cases of Garner and of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, exposed flaws and reflect racism in the system, the lawyers in Brooklyn said.

Both Garner and Brown were black. The officers involved are white.

“We wanted to lend our voices to protest what’s been going on for decades, not only in this courthouse, but in courthouses across the five boroughs and across the United States in terms of a really unequal criminal justice system,” Deborah Wright, president of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys, said afterward.

“We believe that every police officer who takes a life wrongly should be indicted and convicted,” attorney Michael Letwin told 1010 WINS. “Moreover, we think that the police department needs to stop targeting communities of color for disproportionate and discriminatory arrests and prosecutions and convictions that all lead to the kinds of killings that we’ve seen with Eric Garner and Mike Brown in Ferguson.”

Garner, a father of six, died after police officers attempted to arrest him for allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.

In cellphone video of the incident, Officer Daniel Pantaleo is seen placing his arm around Garner’s neck and then taking him to the ground after Garner refuses to be handcuffed.

Garner is heard saying repeatedly, “I can’t breathe!” He died a short time later.

The New York City Medical Examiner’s office ruled Garner’s death a homicide, caused by the officer’s apparent chokehold as well as chest and neck compressions and prone positioning “during physical restraint by police.”

Pataleo’s lawyer and police union officials have argued that the officer used an authorized takedown move, not a chokehold, against a man who was resisting arrest. They also said Garner’s poor health was the main cause of his death.

The grand jury’s failure to indict Pantaleo has touched off a wave of protests, including one in Manhattan last week that drew tens of thousands of people.

Mayor Bill de Blasio is planning to meet with members of the Justice League at City Hall on Friday. The group held a small protest Monday outside Gracie Mansion.

Meanwhile, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer may attempt to negotiate a settlement of the $75 million civil rights claim brought forth by Garner’s family.

If an agreement is reached, it would avoid what could be a long trial in federal court.

Officials with the comptroller’s office said Wednesday that the push is part of Stringer’s strategy to settle major civil rights claims before lawsuits are even filed.

2014.Spring: Matthew Ides, “Dare to Free Your Self”: The Red Tide, Feminism, and High School Activism in the Early 1970s (Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth, Spring 2014)

The Red Tide (1971-1981)

The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth, Volume 7, Number 2, Spring 2014, pp. 295-319

Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press
DOI: 10.1353/hcy.2014.0031


In 1971, a group of radical students at University High School in West Los Angeles began publishing the Red Tide newspaper. Using the Tide and oral histories of alumni, this article analyzes the relationship between feminism and youth culture in the early 1970s. It argues that the Tide’s authors successfully tied together strains of women’s liberation, 1960s movement cultures, and the counterculture; through their activities they integrated this synthesis with the youth culture of their community. As explored in this article, a feminist youth culture charted alternatives to the norms of adult authorities, and provided students with peer-driven discussion of sex, sexual orientation, and gender roles.



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2014.09.19: Kicked Off Facebook, and Wondering Why (New York Times)

Kicked Off Facebook, and Wondering Why

SEPT. 19, 2014

20shortcut-pic1-master675 “It was a Kafkaesque thing,” said Michael Letwin, of Brooklyn, after he discovered his Facebook account had been disabled. Credit Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times



Michael Letwin, a lawyer living in Brooklyn, went to sign into his Facebook account, as he does almost daily, and received a surprising — and unpleasant — message.

“Your account has been disabled,” it said. “If you have any questions or concerns, you can visit our F.A.Q. page.” Mr. Letwin, who besides his personal page also helps administer a Facebook page for the group Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, clicked onto the F.A.Q. page and found a reference to Facebook’s community standards, none of which he felt he violated, along with the option to appeal.

He did. And then he waited. And waited.

Mr. Letwin’s situation is not unusual, or new. The question of what role social media companies should play — a hands-off observer that steps in only in extreme circumstances, or a curator that decides what goes up and what comes down — has long been debated.

Recently, Twitter refused to allow posts with links to videos of the beheading of the American journalist James Foley. Facebook is currently involved in a continuing battle with drag queens who had their accounts disabled because they used their stage names in their profiles — a violation of the company’s rules — rather than their real names. The furor led this week to a meeting with Facebook representatives and a news conference called by a San Francisco supervisor.

“We don’t realize how ingrained Facebook is in our everyday lives,” a drag queen named Heklina told KNTV in San Jose, Calif. “I was shut out of Facebook for 24 hours and felt like I had a limb chopped off.”

But few users, until they are faced with a similar situation, are aware of how little control they actually have over something they view as their own — their pages, their posts, their photos.

“When Facebook makes a termination decision, it’s potentially life-altering for some people,” said Eric Goldman, a professor of law at Santa Clara University in California and co-director of the High Tech Law Institute there. “They’re cut off to access to their communities” and possibly to their clients.

That is not to say that Professor Goldman thinks social media platforms should be completely unregulated. And, he said, Facebook and other social media companies largely do a good job of monitoring so many users and posts.

His and others’ main criticism focuses on transparency.

“The average person’s soapbox is now digital, and we’re now in a world where the large social media companies have a governmentlike ability to set social norms,” said Lee Rowland, a staff lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union. “It’s a massive power and it comes with a responsibility.”

These questions arise with all social media, but the relationship users have with Facebook is particularly passionate, Professor Goldman said. Even as some say its impact is waning, it still provides 1.3 billion people — compared, say, to Twitter’s 271 million active monthly users — with access to news about their friends and to community groups.

“Our goal has always been to strike an appropriate balance between the interests of people who want to express themselves and the interests of others who may not want to see certain kinds of content,” Monika Bickert, head of Facebook’s global policy management, wrote in an email.

Social media companies have every legal right to take down content or kick someone off, said Danielle Citron, a professor of law at the University of Maryland School of Law. As private entities, they are not bound by the First Amendment. They also have immunity from liability under the federal Communications Decency Act.

Facebook, like other social media companies, has a list of standards that users agree to abide by when they set up their accounts, even if they never read the standards.

Among other things, they prohibit posting of hate speech (which means individuals or groups cannot attack others based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or medical condition), encouragements of self-harm, graphic content or threats of violence. And the user’s real name must be used.

Anyone can easily file a report against a user. And Facebook has hundreds of people working around the clock and around the world in 30 languages, reading and responding to reports of violations.

Obviously, many of these categories are open to interpretation. Breast-feeding, for example, is something Facebook has grappled with in the past — essentially, how much of the breast can you show before it becomes graphic?

If Facebook decides to remove content, it sends a warning to the user about the action. People can also be locked out temporarily for a few days or a week. Grounds for immediately disabling an account include using a fake name or promoting child exploitation.

But Heather Dorsey, who lives in Milwaukee, had not done any of those things when she found herself barred from logging onto Facebook three years ago.

“My profile didn’t break any rules. I hadn’t done anything out of the ordinary prior to getting temporarily kicked off,” she wrote in an email. “It was frustrating not knowing how long it was going to take to get the issue resolved, as I do use Facebook to stay connected, particularly with friends and relatives who live out of town. I am a freelance writer and social media consultant, so it was also an issue for my work.”

She tried to call, but ended up in an endless circle of recordings. She found an email address for advertisers and contacted it, asking what she had done wrong. And as suddenly as she was taken off, she was allowed back on.

In 2012, the website Gawker published a far more detailed list of Facebook’s Abuse Standards Violations used by the company’s regulators.

Facebook refused to confirm that the list was valid.

While the community standards are global, the company does obey a country’s laws.

For example, visually or verbally insulting Turkey’s first president, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, is illegal in Turkey, so if Facebook is notified of such a post, it immediately limits the visibility of that post in Turkey. The same with Holocaust denial in in countries where that is against the law.

Facebook would not release the number of reports it receives nor how much content it takes down. It also would not say how many accounts are suspended or disabled. But it does not take more than a quick search on the Internet to see that many users are confounded when they try to log in and find they cannot.

That includes the American Civil Liberties Union. The organization last year posted a photo of a bare-chested bronze female statue in an article on its Facebook page about controversial public art in Kansas.

Facebook took the post down, telling the organization that it had violated Facebook’s community standards. It then blocked the A.C.L.U. from posting for 24 hours, contending it had posted again, which it had not.

Once the A.C.L.U. contacted Facebook’s public policy manager, apologies were given and the post was allowed back up. It was all a mistake. But as Ms. Rowland said, “Our ultimate success is cold comfort for anyone who has a harder time getting their emails returned than does the A.C.L.U.”

Professor Citron, author of “Hate Crimes in Cyberspace,” said of Facebook, “I think it’s a positive thing that they’re allowed to set community norms.” The problem is a lack of “technological due process,” she said.

“They should give meaningful notice so you know what you did wrong and have a meaningful appeal process,” Professor Citron said.

Ms. Bickert of Facebook acknowledged that “one area where we’re focusing is improving the information we share with people about our community standards and when we take action on reported content.”

For Mr. Letwin, that can’t come soon enough. A month after his account was disabled, he received an email apologizing, saying it had all been a mistake on Facebook’s part.

A Facebook spokesman said a report was filed against Mr. Letwin for using a fake name, which he had not done, and a reviewer looking at his account then mistakenly thought it violated Facebook’s standards regarding promotion of violence and terrorism. But the process took far longer than it should have, he acknowledged, saying that typically, an appeal should be responded to within a few days.

“It was a Kafkaesque thing,” Mr. Letwin said. “You don’t know if you did too many posts, too many likes. The rules are constantly changing.”