‘Keep fighting,’ jail-bound attorney urges MoRUS crowd

Radical attorney Cohen drank in the atmosphere at MoRUS’s second anniversary party.  PHOTO BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
Radical attorney Cohen drank in the atmosphere at MoRUS’s second anniversary party. PHOTO BY LINCOLN ANDERSON

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON  |  The Museum of Reclaimed Space last Friday celebrated two years of occupying its space in the storefront of C-Squat.

In a surprise appearance, East Village radical attorney Stanley Cohen showed up and gave a brief talk at MoRUS, at Avenue C at E. 10th St.

After pleading guilty in April, Cohen last month was sentenced to 18 months in jail for tax obstruction.

Cohen represented the East Village squatters when they fought eviction in the 1980s. Among his more recent high-profile clients, he has represented Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law, and Mousa Abu Marzook, a Hamas leader.

“I have lived on Avenue D since 1988,” Cohen told the audience of about 50, “and unfortunately that is going to end in a few weeks.”

Cohen said the squatter movement and the culture of resistance — which the museum embodies and champions — is about being real.

“Besides saying ‘f— you,’ besides saying, ‘We don’t need your rules and regulations’ — it’s built on getting beyond the bulls—,” he explained. “It’s built on getting beyond the rules that they set and that they say we have to obey or we go to jail.”

The squatter ethos, he said, “morphed into the Black Bloc [a radical anarchist protest faction], into Occupy. The ones throwing themselves in front of the beast in Ferguson are the same ones throwing themselves in front of shoppers at Macy’s.”

The nature of the East Village and Lower East Side is to continually foster and renew this revolutionary spirit, he said.

“I walk my dog in this neighborhood,” he said. “I talk to Emma Goldman. The newspaper The Masses was printed in this neighborhood. The Draft Riots were in Tompkins Square Park. Tent City…Tompkins Square Park. There’s something wonderful in this neighborhood — progressive, C-Squat…everything.

“There is no stronger, more committed community than Loisaida, than the Lower East Side community.”

As for the charges that are sending him away, he said, “To those who believe it’s for taxes, I’ll sell you a bridge and Israel is about Judaism. I think I’ve about had it with this sty, and I’m moving overseas,” he said of the U.S., in general.

To those who say the East Village is over, Cohen retorted, “This f—— neighborhood has been passing on for years. [The loss of] CBGB, etc., who the mayor is — it doesn’t matter.”

In a cyclical way, newcomers who are drawn to the East Village will forever revitalize it, he said.

“There’s a little kid out there, in Chicago or California,” he said. “In 10 or 12 years, they’ll be here.

“Keep fighting,” he concluded, “and I just want to say, ‘Up the rebels.’ ”

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