NLG Condemns Violent Police Response to Black Lives Matter Protests Nationwide

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NOTE: As this press release was being published, we learned about James Scurlock, a 22-year-old Black man, shot and killed during a protest last night in Omaha, NE by an alleged white supremacist yelling racial slurs. Support the Scurlock family at this GoFundMe here.

Spurred by the uprising in Minneapolis last week in response to the police killing of George Floyd, demonstrations took place in more than 75 cities over the weekend of May 29-31 as thousands of people protested to demand an end to racialized police violence and justice for Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and so many others. National Lawyers Guild (NLG) Chapters across the country have mobilized to provide legal support to these people’s movements and will continue to do so for as long as necessary. As a grassroots organization led by volunteer members who take direction from movements on the ground, we remain committed to the struggle for Black lives and an end to white supremacy.

“Racialized, violent policing of Black, Brown, and Indigenous bodies has always existed in this country. Now is the time for accountability. Property can always be replaced. Black lives can not,” stated NLG Executive Director Pooja Gehi.

The unwarranted and excessively violent police reaction to demonstrators was strikingly similar across protests: NLG attorneys and Legal Observers consistently report accounts of police attacking people with batons and bicycles, running protesters down with horses and police vehicles, and freely deploying tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and flash-bang grenades. In addition to both mass and targeted arrests of protesters, police also arrested journalists, legal observers, medics, and bystanders. Multiple NLG Legal Observers, clearly visible in bright green caps, were injured by police as they monitored the demonstrations.

By late Saturday, mayors and governors began calling in the military and National Guard, and imposing curfews in an attempt to shut down protests. Currently, more than 40 cities are under curfew and the National Guard has been activated in 15 states and Washington, D.C. In Minneapolis, video footage of National Guard and state troopers shutting down streets and attacking people on their porches went viral. In Chicago, police violently surrounded and mass arrested demonstrators. “The Chicago Police rioted. Police violently attacked hundreds if not thousands of people demanding an end to police violence. This response was unacceptable and unnecessary,” the NLG Chicago Chapter and Chicago Community Bond Fund said in a joint statement yesterday.

Video and witness accounts indicate that far right nationalists and white supremacists were in attendance at many of the demonstrations, further stoking conflict by brandishing guns and arrows. Rather than condemning these actions, Trump has instead attacked left-wing activists and declared he will designate antifa a terrorist organization.

The number of arrests continues to grow. While many have been detained, not all have been charged and processed, making it difficult to give exact arrest numbers. However, NLG chapters report arrests in almost all cities, ranging from a few dozen to nearly 1,000 depending on location. As of now, protesters are being charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and failure to disperse. NLG Chapters have been continuously providing Legal Observers, running legal support hotlines, tracking arrests, and coordinating representation for those arrested.

The NLG denounces the violent and in many cases openly racist attacks of the police. In solidarity with movements for Black lives, the family of George Floyd, and all victims of racialized police violence, we are demanding a full, transparent, and independent investigation into his murder and the Minneapolis Police Department. We also call for investigations into the many law enforcement officers who have been documented brutalizing protesters this weekend, as well as all police officers who have records of complaints for violence. Finally, we call for the defunding and demilitarizing of the police, an investment in community resources including housing, healthcare and income and reparations for the families of those murdered. Please read, sign and share this petition from Black Lives Matter to #DefundThePolice.

Donations to the NLG Mass Defense Program can be made at


Statements by Local NLG Chapters and How to Help:

The National Lawyers Guild, whose membership includes lawyers, legal workers, jailhouse lawyers, and law students, was formed in 1937 as the United States’ first racially-integrated bar association to advocate for the protection of constitutional, human and civil rights.


Featured Image: Minneapolis police outside the Third Precinct in Minneapolis. Firing tear gas at those protesting the May 25th death of George Floyd.  Chad DavisCC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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