The past year has brought new and immense challenges. We have faced the loss and isolation of COVID and the inequity it has laid even more bare. We have felt the urgency and threat of environmental devastation and injustice, and survived an administration that fueled and advanced fascism and white nationalism. We have also seen the power, resilience and courage of humanity and tenacity of the movements for justice that we are part of and defend.
In that same time, the National Lawyers Guild, San Francisco Bay Area chapter (NLG-SFBA) has expanded our steadfast demonstrations and anti-repression work and launched new programs to meet the needs of the political moment and frontline struggles of today. We share some of the projects, programs, and committees that NLG-SFBA has either expanded or launched in the past year in hopes of highlighting our work to continue the safety, solidarity, and defense of the movement.
In solidarity and in community,
Be Bold – Be Smart
- Digital Security & Doxing Defense
Given the pervasiveness of surveillance through public cameras, cell phones, social media, and other technologies, a crucial piece of movement security is increasing awareness and practices of digital security and defending one another against attacks and defamation by fascist and other right wing individuals and groups online (known as doxing). NLG-SFBA has addressed this by providing trainings on digital security, surveillance, and social media safety to people engaged in activism and organizing. NLG-SFBA also provides doxing defense through access to professional “scrubbing” or “cleaning” of one’s online profile to reduce current or potential targeting by law enforcement and/or fascists/the right wing.
- Know Your Rights: Movement Security for Diverse Movement Sectors
In response to uprisings this past May in support of Palestinian liberation, NLG-SFBA hosted a series of Know Your Rights and Movement Security trainings for young activists engaging in internationalist and third world solidarity activism. This 6-part training series spanned three months and covered Digital Security and Surveillance, Social Media Safety, Police Liaison Training, De-Escalation, Movement Safety, and Anti-Political Repression. We provided similar trainings for young activists, sex workers and formerly incarcerated activists.
- Defense Against Federal Repression
NLG-SFBA’s FBI hotline was created and continues to provide legal advice and lawyers for people contacted by FBI or other federal agencies, or subpoenaed to a Grand Jury, in domestic security investigations. NLG-SFBA has also supported individuals who are targeted in other types of investigations, including local law enforcement investigations related to their political activism or religion. Consistent with the Guild’s values, NLG-SFBA continues to provide Anti-Political Repression and Grand Jury Resistance training to movement activists.
- Santa Rita Jail Hotline:
A free, confidential hotline to support collective organizing and provide an outlet for the concerns of people incarcerated in Alameda County’s Santa Rita Jail. The Hotline has engaged in several successful advocacy campaigns for medical accommodations and access to Economic Impact Payments, challenging the jail’s abusive conditions while uplifting the agency and self-determination of incarcerated people. At present, the Hotline is focused on mobilizing community objections to a class action settlement which would expand Santa Rita Jail in the name of improving mental health care, rather than invest limited county funds into diversion and real mental health services.
- International Committee
In 2021, NLG-SFBA launched a local International Committee of the NLG to engage NLG members and partner organizations in monitoring human rights abuses. This includes fighting against the targeting of third world communities in the United States most impacted by U.S. imperialism, combating narratives and policies of liberal imperialism, and defending political prisoners in the U.S. and other parts of the world. At the 2021 National NLG Convention, the Committee hosted a workshop on Liberal Imperialism & The Biden Administration.
- Law Student Clinics
In partnership with local law school NLG chapters, NLG-SFBA piloting two pro bono clinics: an Open Records Clinic at Hastings Law and a Pro Se Clinic at Berkeley Law supporting incarcerated litigants representing themselves in court. Through the Hastings Open Records Clinic, law students work with community-based movement partners in filing and pursuing Public Records Act requests towards legal advocacy and campaign. The Berkeley Clinic for pro se litigants aims to offer individualized support to jailhouse lawyers with drafting and filing pro se claims, including writs of habeas corpus, government tort claims, and requests for extensions and fee waivers.
- Demonstrations Committee
For decades, the NLG has defended demonstrators against political repression in solidarity with all those who challenge the state, capitalism and other forms of systemic oppression and domination, regardless of tactics. In 2021, the NLG-SFBA Demonstrations Committee continues to provide legal support, including Legal Observers, a hotline and/or legal representation for any progressive demonstration or action consistent with these principles, and represent those arrested for participation as per NLG member availability.
- Eviction Defense Legal Support Network:
The Eviction Defense Legal Support Network is a newly piloted program that seeks to defend the rights of those most impacted by forced displacement and mass eviction. In partnership with local legal organizations and unhoused activists, the Network supports trained legal workers working in and closely with impacted communities with Know Your Rights and Pro Se training. By dispatching Legal Observers to eviction sites, tracking the loss or damage of personal property, and supporting the filing of declarations against public agencies, the Network provides legal support.
- Immigration Court Observation Program
NLG-SFBA is part of a coalition-run campaign to hold accountable San Francisco Immigration Court, and Immigration Courts broadly. The Immigration Court Observation Program is an important way to keep eyes on the courts, let the Court know the community is watching, raise public awareness about the inequities in immigration proceedings, and document failures of due process. In April 2021, racist Immigration Judge Nicholas Ford left the bench in San Francisco after public pressure from a complaint filed by the NLG Immigration Justice Committee with the Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review.