FERGUSON, Mo. — The NLG joins the people of Ferguson in expressing disheartenment at the grand jury decision to not indict police officer Darren Wilson for the killing of unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown. The rampant impunity with which police murder innocent people of color, as well as the heavily militarized response to protests in Ferguson, are symptoms of a larger system of racial injustice that has criminalized and oppressed people of color since the country’s founding. In just the last week, police have shot and killed two other unarmed African-Americans – Akai Gurley, 28, “accidentally” gunned down in his Brooklyn stairwell; and Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy holding a BB gun near a Cleveland playground. As Ferguson and the rest of the nation rallies to demand an end to this state sanctioned violence, the NLG will be working to support and uphold the First Amendment rights of protesters.
The NLG helped establish the Ferguson Legal Defense Committee (FLDC). The FLDC is coordinating legal support for arrestees with support from Guild members from New York, Chicago, Detroit, and elsewhere. NLG Legal Observers will be monitoring police activity in Ferguson and solidarity demonstrations nationwide to ensure that the rights of protesters are respected.
These extrajudicial killings are bolstered by the rhetoric from mainstream media that criminalizes peaceful protesters, especially people of color, while repeatedly failing to challenge the motives and actions of police officers and other officials in positions of power. Guild Legal Worker Vice President Kris Hermes, who has been working on the ground in Ferguson, explains that the media’s profitable sensationalism “serves as a cover to use violent repression against protesters,” while the “grand jury system was manipulated to exonerate Wilson.” Given Gov. Jay Nixon’s preemptive “state of emergency,” deployment of the National Guard, and FAA “no-fly zone” declarations, the government’s intent to squash dissent in Ferguson is clear.
As Ferguson protesters emphasized in an open letter, their struggle speaks to a much larger tradition of racial oppression, of which police brutality is just one part:
“This fight for the dignity of our people, for the importance of our lives, for the protection of our children, is one that did not begin Michael’s murder and will not end with this announcement. The ‘system’ you have told us to rely on has kept us on the margins of society […] This system you have admonished us to believe in has consistently, unfailingly, and unabashedly let us down and kicked us out, time and time again.”
The NLG calls on lawyers, law students, and legal workers of conscience to contribute their legal knowledge to defending the people of Ferguson. Volunteers who are ready, willing, and able to contribute to these efforts in Ferguson may sign up here.
The NLG is accepting donations for its efforts in Ferguson and elsewhere.
The National Lawyers Guild was formed in 1937 as the nation’s first racially integrated bar association to advocate for the protection of constitutional, human and civil rights.
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