Remembering William Kunstler

Allen Ginsberg and William Kunstler, Detroit, January 15, 1971

Allen Ginsberg (from his foreword to William Kunstler‘s 1994 book, (of poetry, no less!), Hints and Allegations 

“William Kunstler has faced the raw brutality of  “Establishment” police government. He’s cut to the quick like a surgeon to bare the official nerve center, the nexus of significant facts, in case after case of injustice covered up by racial and/or neoconservative hypocrisy in law…  I like William Kunstler. He is an extraordinary legal intelligence with mind that cuts through a mass of legal bullshit and media brainwash. I like his outrageous “Progressive” attitude, which boils down to a respect for truth in detail, and insistence on intimate fact…”

Kunstler was, of course, along with Leonard Weinglass, lead counsel for the defense in the notorious Chicago Conspiracy trial (see yesterday’s posting), but, although that moment was, arguably, the moment that fully radicalized him, his ubiquity, his high-profile celebrity (taking on cases that other eschewed), willingly, unflinchingly, passionately, believing in the underdog (and the rights, fundamental civil rights, of that underdog)  led to the sobriquet “the most hated lawyer in America” (reviled and revered, it should be noted, certainly in his hey-day, in equal parts).

He died (aged 76) in 1995.

In 2009, his daughters, Sarah and Emily produced the documentary,  William Kunstler – Disturbing the Universe, their perspective on what it was like growing up with such a man,   coming to terms (now, in retrospect) with his complex legacy.

The documentary received mostly positive reviews – Stephen Holden of the New York Times accurately described the film as a “refresher course on the history of American left-wing politics in the 1960s and ’70s, as well as an affectionate personal biography” of its subject.

For more reviews/responses – see here  –

For more (following its 2010 PBS screening) – see here)

William Kunstler – Disturbing the Universe may be viewed – (and should be viewed) – in its entirety – here  

and here’s Kunstler in 1994 on the CUNY tv program Open Mind. (interviewed by Richard D Heffner)


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