GI Occupiers Get Guidance from Military Law Experts

For immediate release:
November 7, 2011
Kathleen Gilberd
Executive Director, Military Law Task Force
New York

The Military Law Task Force of the National Lawyers Guild has released new “Know Your Rights” materials for military members participating in the ongoing Occupy Wall Street protests.

“We have reports of active-duty GIs, reservists, and veterans taking part in Occupy actions across the country,” said Kathleen Gilberd, Executive Director of the Military Law Task Force (MLTF). “The new MLTF pamphlet is designed to ensure that these protesters are aware of their rights and have access to the military regulations which protect them. As the pamphlet tells soldiers, the MLTF has your back.”

For nearly 75 years, the National Lawyers Guild has provided representation to individuals targeted for their criticism of U.S. policies. And since its inception in the 1970s, the MLTF has provided crucial legal support to military dissenters.

“Despite the fact that they put their lives on the line serving the U.S. government, military members’ First Amendment rights are more limited than those of civilians,” Gilberd said. “What’s more, active duty soldiers and reservists may risk disciplinary action simply for exercising those rights at home.”

The list of such rights violations is long. Inactive reservists have faced other-than-honorable discharges for participating in legal street theater protest actions. To prevent attendance at anti-war demonstrations, some commands have gone so far as to illegally confine entire units to base. GIs have even been charged with criminal offenses for handing out copies of the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July.

Again and again in these instances, legal work by the MLTF has prevented unjust courts-martial and halted illegal harassment. The Military Law Task Force grew out of the National Lawyers Guild’s Military Law Offices, which provided counsel for GIs in Asia and elsewhere during the Vietnam War. The MLTF includes attorneys, legal workers, law students and “barracks lawyers” interested in draft, military, and veterans issues.

The MLTF is an ongoing project of the National Lawyers Guild, which is actively providing legal support to dozens of Occupy encampments nationwide.

The National Lawyers Guild was founded in 1937 and is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has members in every state.

Posted in Press Releases.