Jonny and Me: Three decades of debating the law and social movements

A few decades ago Jonny Cooper and I threw ourselves into the heart of early AIDS activism. Within a couple of years Jonny decided that the law was the way to solve the challenges; I decided to stick with communities and the movements we were building.

The Revolution Will not be Litigated is a great book, that emerged from a conference in Bellagio that I co-convened with Katie Redford and Mark Gevisser in November 2019. We brought together a brilliant group of people – movement builders and legal activists – working on a broad range of social justice issues. The idea for the conference was sparked by many late night discussions between Katie, Mark and me as we wrestled with ideas for our writing projects during month-long Bellagio residencies in early 2018.

Following the conference “Power of Law, Power of People” Human Rights lawyer Katie Redford and author Mark Gevissser asked many of the delegates to turn their papers into essays for this book – and added in perspectives from many more brilliant lawyers, thinkers and activists. They have pulled together a beautiful range of essays. Please do order a copy – it is stuffed full of brilliant reflections by amazing people.

I’m thrilled that the section “Activists on Legal Power” begins with “Jonny and Me”, some of my memories of fierce debates and lots of agreement about the role of the Law and Social Movements in driving change, with Jonathan Cooper OBE. Jonny was one of my dearest friends – we met in the late 1980s when we were both deeply steeped in the urgency of responding to the horrors of the earliest days of AIDS. As our careers developed in different directions, our passion for change continued. Jonathan died suddenly in 2021. He is deeply missed, and his legacy burns bright. I so wish we could continue with our debates.