Legal Rights Center
In 1993, after a pit stop at a white-shoe law firm, Lindquist and Vennum, Ellison landed a job as executive director of the Legal Rights Center, a nonprofit focused on providing indigent defense in the city’s African American, Hmong, and American Indian communities. (One of the group’s founders represented Russell Means and Dennis Banks after their 1973 standoff at Wounded Knee.) Ellison still didn’t shy away from controversy.
He partnered with a former Vice Lords gang leader named Sharif Willis to tackle police brutality—an effort that fell apart when Willis held 12 people up at gunpoint at a gas station. (Ellison has called the alliance “naive.”) But he made a name for himself on tough cases. His aggressive legal tactics were a lot like his approach to political organizing. “Some lawyers will spend most of their time in the back room trying to convince not only their client but also the prosecutor to make a deal—Keith was kind of the opposite,” says Bill Means, Russell’s brother and an early supporter of the Legal Rights Center. “He’d be filing motions five, six at a time on a traffic case.”
In 1998 Ellison set up his own practice and left the Legal Rights Center. He also joined a community group called Sincere and Loyal African American Men (SALAAM). The group were green T shirts and shut down local drug houses.
Bill Means staffed the Indian Desk in the 1984 Jesse Jackson campaign.
1987 Rainbow conference/Board
Independent Progressive Politics Network
- Jones. Keith Ellison Is Everything Republicans Thought Obama Was. Maybe He’s Just What Democrats Need. TIM MURPHYMAR/APR 2017
- [My Country Tis of Thee, by Keith Ellison page 103]
- [My Country Tis of Thee, by Keith Ellison page 110]