In January 2011, 39 year-old drywall taper Michael Williams of Bedford, Massachusetts attended a demonstration in New York commemorating the two year anniversary of Israelâ€™s Operation Cast Lead. After the rally, he noticed a drunken white man shouting, â€œGo back to your country, you [expletive] terrorists!â€ at some teenage girls wearing hijab in front of a pizzeria. Williams and a friend intervened to defend the girls, who had also just attended the rally, and then led them in an impromptu chant of â€œFree, Free Palestine!â€
The drunk then hit Williams in the face, whereupon Williams punched him back and a fight ensued, for which both men were arrested.
Curiously, the District Attorney let the drunk man go free but charged Williams with first degree felony assault and endangerment of a child, crimes he did not commit â€“ in fact Williams and the Muslim girls were the victims of a racist assault!
In June 2012, the case went to trial. Despite having six eyewitnesses and clear photographic evidence that the other guy hit him first, the jury after three days of deliberation found Williams guilty of second degree assault, a sentence which carries up to 7 years. He was released on a $7500 bail so that he could return to Massachusetts to coach his sonâ€™s baseball game. Williamsâ€™ sentencing is to scheduled for August 10, 2012. He will appeal. Anyone wishing to donate money to his legal fund this Ramadan may contact al-Awda New York.
Michael Williams, in an exclusive telephone interview with TMO, mentioned some dark details of his court ordeal. The Muslim girl who filmed the assault and served as a witness was asked to whom she showed the film and what organization she was serving. After the soft-spoken girl broke down in tears, the prosecutor stated: â€œThe reason you are here today is because you want him to become a martyr.â€
This changed the whole mood of the trial. Afterwards, another eyewitness was grilled regarding his affiliation with the Green Party and was asked if the partyâ€™s belief in self-defense included killing innocent people?
Al-Awda New York circulated a notice entitled, â€œDire Verdict for Michael Williams in Self-Defense Against Anti-Muslim Bigot,â€ which states:
â€œMichaelâ€™s conviction â€“ despite unchallenged evidence of self-defense â€“ reflects the prosecutionâ€™s orchestrated campaign to punish and intimidate those who dare stand up for Palestinian rights and against racist attack. Over the repeated objection of attorney Lamis Deek, the prosecution was permitted to introduce grossly prejudicial anti-Muslim rhetoric against defense witnesses, one of whom was even questioned about his opposition to a US war with Iran. During deliberations, the court refused to answer jurorâ€™s questions about the law of self-defense. Thus, Michael and the young girls he defended have been double victimized in this case; First by a racist attack on January 11, 2011, and then by an unfair and politically motivated witch-hunt in the courts. The resulting conviction is a dire threat not only to Michael, but to all Muslims, communities of color, and social justice activists.â€
Williams expressed to TMO his total confusion as to how and why this was happening to him. Of Irish and Italian descent, married with two children, Williams speaks with a thick Boston accent. He is not the kind of person one normally expects to find as a defendant in such a highly biased trial. He is better known to his community as an activist with the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades than for his views on the Middle East. Like most ordinary Americans, he remains largely unaware of pro-Palestine activist campaigns whether local or international. At that moment when he hit the man back, who had just swiped him in the face, he was acting as an American, doing what any other self-assured American man would be expected to do in the same situation. He kept on asking me, â€œWhat did I do? What have I done that was so wrong?â€
Perhaps the most dangerous thing of all to the powers that be is when ordinary working class people start asking questions like those of Michael Williams: â€œWhatâ€™s wrong with giving money to schools? Why canâ€™t Gaza have a baseball field? How come I can buy an ice cream for my children but I canâ€™t buy an ice cream for a Palestinian child? How is our system throwing innocent people in jail, labeling them as terrorists? The DA and the judge lied about me. They broke the law.
How could this happen? Why couldnâ€™t my lawyer defend my innocence when everything was on film? How could the jury believe such obviously fabricated charges? This is an injustice!â€ â€œI should have the right to an opinion,â€ Williams continued. â€œIf you sat down and talked to me, you wouldnâ€™t find any violence or hate in me. I believe everyone should have food and water. I love Jewish people. I love Palestinian people. Iâ€™m content with my life. I enjoy life. I believe that the capitalist system should allow Palestinian people to work and do business. I donâ€™t hate people. I love people.
God donâ€™t need you to fight for Him. Capitalism and Socialism go in cycles. In the end, it all boils down to economics. Israel will have to negotiate labor. The world is not coming to an end.â€
About two years ago Williams called into Michael Grahamâ€™s radio talk show and mentioned that in Israel, it is illegal for Jews to rent or sell property to non-Jews. â€œDo you think thatâ€™s right?â€ he simply asked. Later that month, the FBI came to his house and arrested him in front of his children for â€œthreatening to commit a crimeâ€ and â€œharassingâ€ the talk show host. After making him go to court ten times, where they accused him of hating homosexuals and wanting to establish an Islamic caliphate, they finally dropped the charges. Due to the current zealousness of the prosecution to tie Williams to some unnamed terrorist organization based on bizarre and unsubstantiated insinuations, some wonder if the drunk man might have been an undercover agent.
â€œIn the end, everything will come out. Nobody can conspire against God. The truth will come out of darkness and into the light,â€ Williams philosophized, admitting that he feels very alone right now. He feels like his life is in limbo and that he has no control over his fate.
His family will be destroyed if he goes to jail. He feels that he is being used as a pawn, but he doesnâ€™t know what the game is.