NLG Demands Immediate Structural Change in Wake of Impeachment and Attempted Coup



Last week’s white supremacist coup attempt facilitated by law enforcement makes clear that the path forward requires a serious reckoning with the conditions that caused this moment. White supremacy, though mentioned in mainstream news media more frequently in the last year, is not remotely a new phenomenon—it was the ideology the United States was founded on and remains this government’s primary political underpinning, regardless of the political party in power. For this reason, the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) demands that the political response to last week’s fascist mob looks beyond the Trump administration and enacts structural change, including an overhaul of the prison and policing systems, a firm condemnation and rejection of white supremacist ideologies, and the implementation of more progressive policies across the board.

The NLG remains firm in our abolitionist principles, and last week further demonstrated that law enforcement not only stood down in the face of white, fascist insurrectionists, but actively aided their attempts to enter the Capitol to overturn the election. Law enforcement is, and always has been, the body that carries out the brute force of the state’s white supremacist violence. We have already seen lenient sentencing for the insurrectionists and an arrest count less than ⅓ that of arrests made this summer in D.C. during BLM protests. Yet, “anti-terrorist” legislation will only harm communities of color through the expansion of the police and surveillance state. But this moment does bring about a critical question for abolitionists: how do we effectively address systemic violence without calling for a mass prosecution? The NLG is calling for consequences to white supremacist ideology as a whole, beginning with the political expulsion of all local, state, and federal officials who pushed the narrative of a stolen election, encouraging a pro-Trump attempt to seize power. This begins with, as Missouri Representative Cori Bush put it, the expulsion of “the white supremacist-in-chief,” Donald Trump. At the same time, the NLG understands that impeachment is not enough, and neither is a return to the status quo.

The legislature choosing to impeach Donald Trump at the eleventh hour, only after an attempted coup with possible support from elected representatives and the mysteriously-missing panic button in Massachusetts Representative Ayanna Pressley’s office, among other indications of this being an inside right-wing job, highlights the bottom line of the U.S. government. Ongoing public affiliation with white supremacists, separating families in ICE detention, horrendously mismanaging the COVID-19 crisis, multiple sexual violence allegations, the deployment of federal troops to suppress racial justice protests, attempts to designate “antifa” as a terrorist group, xenophobic travel policies, and the plethora other violent actions of Donald Trump and his administration were all permissible—it was not until the Capitol itself, and the respectability of the institution it represents, was threatened that there was enough support to act decisively. The U.S. government has failed miserably to implement even minimal support to marginalized people, and it is endlessly clear that this country continues to run at the expense of our BIPOC, disabled, queer, trans, low-income, and undocumented communities. The NLG agrees Trump ought to be barred from holding public office ever again—but we also need meaningful, structural change moving forward. The expulsion of Trump and his associates is just the first step.

White supremacy is violence, and it is an ideology not easily reformed or rehabilitated. Even and especially as abolitionists, we must simultaneously address the roots of white supremacy and find ways to address its perpetrators in real-time. Prison is not the answer, but consequences in-and-of themselves are not inherently carceral. Wealth redistribution in the form of reparations for slavery and Jim Crow, an end to prisons and policing, the abolition of the electoral college, and serious budget cuts to the Department of Defense are a start. In the meantime, the NLG will continue to uplift grassroots movements for community support and healing justice. 

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.

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Featured Image: Screenshot of CSPAN stream of House vote to impeach President Trump for second time.

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