Welcome to the rebranded Member Recap, formerly known as the Member News Digest, where you can catch up on NLG news from the last two weeks.
Upcoming and Ongoing Events
Civil Liberties Defense Center (CLDC) is hosting a webinar TONIGHT (2/4) at 6 P.M. EST featuring NLG's Director of Mass Defense, Tyler Crawford. Read the event description and register here.
For several decades now, community activists and movement lawyers alike have actively opposed police brutality. They organized “cop watch” and legal observer initiatives across the U.S. and have made a real difference to folks on the ground. Join CLDC and experienced panelists to learn more about how these projects document and push back against law enforcement abuses.
ENDING SOON: International Commission of Inquiry on Systemic Racist Police Violence Against People of African Descent in the United States
The National Conference of Black Lawyers (NCBL), the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) and the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) have assembled a commission of experts from around the world to investigate racist police violence against people of African descent in the United States. The International Commission of Inquiry on Systemic Racist Police Violence Against People of African Descent in the United States will broadcast live hearings online with testimony from victims’ families and lawyers beginning January 18, 2021, which is the day that the United States commemorated the birthday of civil rights legend Martin Luther King, Jr. The hearings come to a close on February 6, 2021.
Please visit the website of the commission at https://inquirycommission.org/ to see the hearing schedule, to review the case list, and to register to attend these public hearings. All of the hearings will take place over Zoom and will be recorded and transcribed. This project is supported by a grant from the National Lawyers Guild Foundation.
For the 2021 Week Against Mass Incarceration (March 1-6), we ask NLG Law Schools and Local Chapters to organize around the theme of “Prison Abolition and Beyond” to include all locations and instances in which people are held against their will, including jails, immigration detention, juvenile detention facilities, psychiatric wards, and more. We also intend the “beyond” to include consideration of the abolition of policing as part of the larger mass incarceration system (and in line with the Guild’s 2020 resolution supporting the abolition of police). Check out the #WAMI2021 page on our website for ways to get involved.
National, Committee, and Chapter Statements and News
After January's major NLG Detroit victory where 40+ protesters represented by NLG Detroit and their partners, the city has decided to drop a vast majority of the protest-related charges.
"Police came under fire for their handling of the protests, leading to a federal lawsuit that alleges officers used unnecessary, excessive force to break up peaceful demonstrations against police brutality. Members of the media also were arrested and assaulted by police."
"The Rhode Island Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild supports the rights of people advocating for racial justice and against police violence to protest, and strongly opposes House Bill 5001, which would make protesting on the highway a felony punished by mandatory minimum sentences. This bill appears to be a response to recent demonstrations protesting police violence, including the the failure of the legal system to hold those responsible for the murder of Breonna Taylor and the injury to Jhamal Gonsalves accountable. It was proposed once before in 2015 following demonstrations protesting the police murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson. Such demonstrations are an important way for people to voice their frustration with a system in which Black lives do not appear to matter. And the intent of this bill is clearly to punish Black Lives Matter demonstrations."
"Section 230 is a foundational law for free expression and human rights when it comes to digital speech. It makes it possible for websites and online forums to host the opinions, photos, videos, memes, and creativity of ordinary people, rather than just content that is backed by corporations.
The danger posed by uncareful changes to Section 230 is not theoretical. The last major change to the law, the passage of SESTA/FOSTA in 2018, put lives in danger. The impacts of this law were immediate and destructive, limiting the accounts of sex workers and making it more difficult to find and help those who were being trafficked online."
Read through the letter the NLG Atlanta Chapter sent to the Atlanta City Commissioner on January 28th, 2021:
"We are writing to you to demand that the pending charges against the over 500 protestors from last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests be dismissed. This request comes on the heels of the country watching with horror as white supremacist insurgents took to our country’s capital to prevent the democratic process of confirming President Joseph R. Biden in Congress. We watched these same insurgents walk the streets of the capital well past curfew without arrest. The insurgency of January 6, 2021 made evident what many of us in the fight for racial justice and the end to police brutality already knew: that there are two Americas– one where white supremacists get to roam the streets violently without consequence and one where peaceful Black Lives Matter protestors mourning the unjust murders of Black people are swiftly arrested right as the second hand on the proverbial clock hits curfew."
NLG Milwaukee signs onto letter to ask if local officers participated in assault on nation’s Capitol
"The inability to prevent terror, the destruction of property, and loss of human life has inspired fear. For many members of the public, the lack of effective response also suggests the potential of collusion between those agents of the law and the invaders. […] As individuals from Wisconsin(3) have been identified as participants in the assault, the public must be assured that officers of the law did not travel to Washington, D.C. to participate in these illegal activities. Fleeting social media posts by law enforcement in Milwaukee since January 6th have demonstrated approval and support for the law breakers in Washington, D.C."
"Right now, Facebook is reaching out to stakeholders to ask if critical conversations that use the term “Zionist” fall within the rubric of hate speech as per Facebook’s Community Standards. Basically, Facebook is assessing if “Zionist” is being used as a proxy for “Jewish people or Israelis” in attacks on its platform. […] Attempts to stifle conversations about Zionist political ideology and Zionist policies carried out by state actors — both of which have real implications for Palestinian and Israeli people, as well as Jewish and Palestinian people around the world — are part of an emerging pattern of political censorship by the Israeli government and some of its supporters."
Learn more and sign the petition: facebookweneedtotalk.org
NLG San Francisco launches a campaign to open an investigation into SF Immigration Judge Nicholas R. Ford
"Judge Ford has demonstrated that he is unfit to hear immigration cases due to discriminatory statements and behavior, particularly on the grounds of race, class, gender, and sexuality. We have become aware of his bigoted and unconstitutional actions through our own observations and reports of his treating individuals with immigration hearings, practitioners, and witnesses in an unprofessional and hostile manner as well as engaging in unlawful manifestations of bias or prejudicial conduct. These extremely troubling reports from attorneys, court observers, and immigrants and asylum seekers themselves call into question the integrity of the San Francisco Immigration Court and its commitment to due process for those who appear there."
New installment of the NLG Review Blog Series: “Thugs” and “Riots”: Legitimizing Police Violence at Protests Against Police Violence
In the third article of the series, criminal justice professor Cedrick Heraux discusses how the language of violence and bias impacts policing during social movements, particularly when it is the excessive use of force by police that is being protested. He notes that both legal and moral norms are violated most often when those protesting are members of minority communities, with little accountability for those violations. You can read the article here.
NLG In The News
2/4/21 | KNX10.70 NewsRadio | National Police Foundation holding 2 public listening sessions to review LAPD response to George Floyd protests
"In a federal lawsuit filed in June by the Los Angeles chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, BLM-LA and Los Angeles Community Action Network, the plaintiffs maintain there were more than 3,000 people arrested over the course of several days of demonstrations and many were seriously injured by police."
2/1/21 | Democracy Now! | The Assassination of Fred Hampton: New Documents Reveal Involvement of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover
Check People's Law Chicago and NLG Chicago members Jeff Haas and Flint Taylor's interview on COINTELPRO, the FBI, and the murder of Fred Hampton.
"Well, yes. I think the cover-up continues, in the fact that many of these pages contain redaction, including the information from O’Neal. So there are things the FBI has still not released, we think showing the involvement of higher-ups. We do have a continuous rewarding of the special agent, Roy Mitchell, referring to the success of the raid, how the raid was critical to the role of the FBI. So, some of these documents are new. But for the next year, Roy Mitchell got congratulated for how well he had handled O’Neal and how important the information he’d gotten. And they continuously internally called the raid a success, while externally they were hiding it."
1/29/21 | Food and Water Watch | Amidst Affordability Crisis, Comprehensive Water Justice Bill Introduced in Chicago City Council
The National Lawyers Guild of Chicago endorsed the Water-for-All Ordinance; you can read more here:
"Today’s Chicago City Council meeting saw the introduction of the Water-for-All ordinance, a comprehensive water policy solution that targets the thousands of Chicagoans who no longer have access to water. The ordinance addresses water affordability, ensures transparency from the Department of Water Management, and bans water shut-offs as a means to extract payment from the 14 percent of Chicago residents who can’t afford their water bills."
1/28/21 | Common Dreams | George Floyd "Narrated His Death," Says Attorney at International Inquiry
Read through this piece by former NLG President Marjorie Cohn on the Inquiry Commission hearings:
"George Floyd, who was publicly tortured and lynched by Minneapolis police officers on May 25, 2020, narrated his own death, legendary civil rights lawyer Benjamin Crump told the International Commission of Inquiry on Systemic Racist Police Violence Against People of African Descent in the United States at its January 25 hearing. "He narrated his death, like a cinema movie at the time."
1/27/21 | Philadelphia Inquirer | Legal observers sue Philly police, alleging brutality at Walter Wallace Jr. protests
"Berg [an NLG Philadelphia LO] is one of two legal observers — the trained volunteers who take detailed notes and monitor public demonstrations for civil-rights violations — who filed a lawsuit against the city and the Police Department last week over allegations of brutality during the October protests."
1/22/21 | Impact Fund | Impact Fund and Amici Support State Efforts to Protect Vulnerable Workers During Deadly Pandemic
The NLG Labor and Employment Committee helped file this brief to support vulnerable workers in California:
"Our coalition addressed two seemingly obvious realities: (1) the COVID-19 pandemic is an emergency that warrants immediate action to avoid serious harm to the public health and general welfare, and (2) the Emergency Temporary Standards are necessary to protect the health of vulnerable low-wage workers. Our amicus briefs explored the record prepared by the Standards Board, which conclusively demonstrated that COVID-19 is a threat to human life and documented how it continues to spread in workplaces."
1/21/21 | WENY News | Ithaca-based collaboration receives $1M grant to prevent displacement of low-income tenants
"Partners include the City of Ithaca, Cornell Law School, Human Services Coalition of Tompkins County, Legal Assistance of Western New York, Inc. and the National Lawyers Guild student chapter at Cornell Law. The collaboration has received a one million dollar grant. Funding for the grant comes from Enterprise Community Partners, a non-profit organization working to “promote housing stability among low-income communities”.