Michael A. Hardy has been a practicing attorney since 1988 and has long lamented “this nation’s history and its relationship to racial discrimination, anti-Semitism, segregation and slavery.” In 1991 he was one of the founders of Al Sharpton‘s National Action Network (NAN), where he has held the title of General Counsel since 2008.
Hardy served as Sharpton’s defense attorney when the latter was sued in 1988 for transgressions he had committed while helping to perpetrate an infamous racial hoax. Specifically, Sharpton had falsely and repeatedly claimed that in late 1987 a black teenage girl named Tawana Brawley was abducted and raped by then-Assistant District Attorney Steven Pagones and five other white men in Dutchess County, New York. When a jury eventually convicted Sharpton of defamation against Pagones, Hardy vowed to appeal the decision and said: “This is a battle that obviously is not over.”
Hardy has also defended Morris Powell, a black nationalist who in 1995, while heading Sharpton’s “Buy Black” Committee, led NAN activists in a racially charged boycott against Freddy’s Fashion Mart, a Harlem-based business owned by a Jewish man named Fred Harari. During that boycott, Powell and his fellow protesters repeatedly and menacingly told passersby not to patronize the “crackers” and “the greedy Jew bastards [who are] killing our [black] people” – incendiary rhetoric that eventually prompted one deranged picketer to shoot four whites inside the store and then set the building on fire––killing seven employees. In December 1998, Hardy helped Powell fight a restraining order which a court had recently issued to shut down his latest campaign of daily street protests against yet another Harlem store owned by Harari. In those protests, Powell and his allies were urging locals to “return fire” because “Freddy’s not dead.”
In a November 2013 piece titled “The Forgotten Man,” which he wrote for the Huffington Post, Hardy articulated his clear preference for big government and the wholesale redistribution of wealth. For example, he lauded former President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs and the subsequent rise of “affirmative action which opened the doors [for blacks] to post-secondary education and entry to pretty much the college of our choice.” Further, Hardy lamented that in the 1980s “the Great Society’s war on poverty was shut down” while “government’s commitment to equal opportunity gave way to America’s traditional laissez-faire policies” and thereby increased the “disparity between rich and poor.” Moreover, he said it would be both “morally repugnant” and “bad economic policy” for the U.S. not to increase its public-sector spending on such items as Head Start and Early Head Start programs, “rental assistance and other ‘affordable housing programs’,” “federal work study grants,” and “assistance in paying [the] heating bills” of low-income households.
In response to the August 2014 death of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black male who was shot and killed by a white Missouri police officer whom he was assaulting and attempting to disarm, Hardy and Sharpton both lent their names to a petition calling for “systemic change throughout this nation in the implicit and explicit bias against people of color and particularly African American youth who are routinely targeted by law enforcement even within their own communities.”
Following the July 2015 acquittal of George Zimmerman, the “white Hispanic” who in 2012 had shot and killed black Florida teenager Trayvon Martin in an altercation that made national headlines, Hardy said: “Trayvon was killed because he was profiled. Zimmerman shot Trayvon … not because he had to, but because he wanted to.” Hardy also asserted that the jury’s decision was causing many black people to believe “that nothing will change for the good in our society, [and] that some of us, particularly those of us who come from communities of color, will never get a fair shake, will never have our lives valued in the same way as others and certainly, we will never get fair access to the rule of law or the fruits of justice.” In addition, Hardy praised the Dream Defenders, an organization whose stated goal was to cultivate “a new generation” of young radical activists, for what he called “their willingness to make sacrifice for the possibility of change” by means of “nonviolent civil disobedience, and direct action.”
Hardy has also voiced support for the “tremendous” work of the anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street movement, praised the Black Lives Matter movement, and lauded Senator Bernie Sanders for speaking out about the “inequities” and the “big gaps in wealth” that allegedly pervade American society.
In May 2016, Hardy co-authored a Huffington Post piece claiming that ever since Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act was “gutted by the Supreme Court” in 2013, the ability of blacks to vote in political elections had been compromised. (Section 5 was an anachronistic provision requiring that in fifteen separate – mostly Southern – states, no existing election laws could be altered in any way without first being pre-cleared by either the Justice Department or a federal court, on the insupportable theory that without such restrictions, societal racism was likely to cause the implementation of practices designed to restrict black voter turnout at the polls.) “The 1965 Voting Rights Act reformed our democracy in unprecedented ways,” wrote Hardy. “Without it, we are seeing various schemes to disenfranchise voters succeed.” Further, he demanded that Congress “reinstate (and extend to non-southern states) the pre-clearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act,” so as to make it more difficult to “repress” voter turnout among “persons of color.”
Further Reading: “Words Matter, Facts Matter and So Does Leadership” (by Michael Hardy, 9-12-2017); “The Forgotten Man” (by Michael Hardy, 9-16-2013); “Long Live Trayvon Martin” (by Michael Hardy, 7-15-2013); “Dream Defenders Making Dreams Come True” (by Michael Hardy, 7-29-2013); “It’s Time to Expand Voting Rights” (by Michael Hardy and Harry Kresky, 5-9-2016).