The National Lawyers Guild marked our 80th Anniversary this year, at a time when the need for a progressive legal community is more necessary than ever. With your support, the NLG has stood with people’s resistance struggles and helped to define the role of movement lawyers since 1937. After 80 years of fighting fascism, racism, and imperialism through organizing, education, and litigation, our commitment is stronger than ever!
Here are just a few ways the NLG fought for justice in 2017:
The Guild has provided support for the vast majority of Americans who oppose the Trump administration from day one. The NLG National Office and Washington, DC Chapter coordinated to provide legal support for the J20 protests on Inauguration Day, which have continued as the trials for nearly 200 protesters began this November. Working with our allies at Defending Rights and Dissent, the DC Chapter filed a FOIA request to uncover records pertaining to police use of force against protesters.
The National Office provided regular cutting edge analyses of current events and their implications for resistance movements. Prior to J20, we released a report on current protest policing tactics, followed by a widely-cited article on the wave of anti-protest bills proposed in state legislatures. As the alt-right and its supporters began to gain traction throughout the spring, we explored the implications of free speech in the context of white supremacy. When the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally was being organized, we released a piece on the importance of legal support for anti-fascist action. Most recently, we published an analysis of the way resistance movements of color are being targeted in the digital age and an overview of the dangers of deregulated capitalism. In addition to our research and writing, the National Office has prepared webinars on reproductive justice and the law, the rise of the political right, and organizing strategies for NLG Chapters, Committees, and Students.
Shortly after Trump’s Inauguration, the National Office organized a “Law Strikes Back” nationwide day of action on February 17, coordinating hundreds of legal professionals from more than 30 organizations in 17 cities to show our resistance to the hateful rhetoric and overt discrimination of the new administration.
NLG law student membership has exploded this year! Our 2017 Haywood Burns Fellows worked with legal organizations addressing issues of economic justice, medical rights, political participation, education reform, criminal justice, refugee rights, and more. Nearly 100 law school chapters participated in our annual week of action: Mass Incarceration in the Era of Trump. Law student members also acted as legal observers in their local communities, and organized Disorientation events at their law schools.
Emboldened by Trump’s campaign and subsequent election, white supremacist organizing has gained traction across the country. The NLG takes a strong position against this kind of hate speech, and supports activists resisting racist demonstrations and rhetoric. The Guild trained legal observers and sent out LOs in Charlottesville, Gainesville, Berkeley, Portland, and many other places where anti-fascist activists shut down the far right.
The NLG’s 80th Anniversary Law for the People Convention was held this August in Washington, DC. Featuring speeches by Winona LaDuke and Oscar López Rivera and honoring the work of the Water Protector Legal Collective, the convention covered topics representing the wide range of the Guild’s work: immigration, mass incarceration, political prisoners, international human rights, reproductive justice, protestor defense, organizing strategies, and much more. Convention participants marched on the DOJ to take our politics out of the classroom and into the street. Guild members also organized regional conferences to explore local issues in New Haven, New Orleans, Denver, Philadelphia, Chicago, Toledo, and Olympia.
The Guild’s International Committee coordinated many actions this year in solidarity with resistance struggles across the world, including calling for the cancellation of Puerto Rico’s debt amid the devastation of Hurricane Maria, working towards the demilitarization of relations with North Korea, and opposing the Israel Boycott Act.
The NLG Mass Defense Committee continued to protect the rights of protesters. When the Trump administration announced its Muslim Ban, NLG chapters across the country coordinated legal support as thousands of activists took over airports. After the acquittal of former police officer Jason Stockley, the St. Louis Chapter organized support for the thousands of demonstrators who took to the streets. We also continued our work with the Water Protector Legal Collective to assist the protestors at Standing Rock and provided legal observers and representation for demonstrators at rallies against white supremacy, and opposing the removal of DACA.