By Jude Ortiz, Mass Defense Committee Chair
The Mass Defense Committee (MDC) held its annual member meeting at the convention in Portland, with nearly 80 members attending on a Friday evening. The meeting was shortly before the SIA Legal and If/When/How’s reproductive justice cocktail reception, which the MDC cosponsored along with several other NLG committees. Both the meeting and the reception had great turnouts, and the enthusiasm at each was evident.
This year’s MDC member meeting focused on updating members about MDC activities and successes throughout the year and opening up space for discussion about members’ priorities and needs in the upcoming year. Mass defense organizing across the country has been in full swing all year long, with no signs of slowing down in the future. This level of activity is directly related to the activity of social movements in the streets, and the MDC Steering Committee wants to make sure that the MDC is the most useful resource for members as they go about their mass defense organizing in their communities and chapters.
The Steering Committee has been meeting monthly and discussing ways of ensuring the MDC is an active part of individual members’ and chapters’ day-to-day organizing. We have so much knowledge to learn from each other and skills to share; the Steering Committee wants to become even more effective at facilitating this collaboration and solidarity across chapters. To that end, the Steering Committee posed the following questions to members in break-out groups at the annual member meeting:
- From your mass defense work, are there recent trends in protest law and practices you think are relevant nationwide?
- What can the MDC do to support and contribute to mass defense work in which you are involved? (With particular emphasis on regions that do not have staffed chapters.)
- What should be the priorities for the MDC for the next year?
Steering Committee members facilitated break-out groups of the members in attendance. Some themes quickly emerged during the reportbacks: the need to recruit and retain Legal Observers, threats of violence from the police and far right at street protests, protecting against doxxing by the far right, deepening relationships with communities of color and other communities mass defense organizing is in solidarity with, and smaller/newer chapters needing more support from the national organization as they get established and face significant threats and challenges in their areas.
The Steering Committee will be following up with all MDC members with a survey to solicit feedback on how the meeting went for them and to gather additional thoughts on MDC priorities and needs. The Steering Committee hopes to hear from members who were not able to attend the annual member meeting as well, so the goal of the online survey is to connect with more members.
The Steering Committee is actively seeking new members as well. Several long-term members will be stepping down in the near future to focus on their local mass defense organizing. Any MDC member interested in joining the Steering Committee can join at any time by reaching out to any current Steering Committee member or the chair at firstname.lastname@example.org. Steering Committee members should expect to make monthly conference calls and dedicate a few hours a week to MDC projects. ■