Strategies. Tactics. Resilience.
Confirmed Panelists To Date –
more to be added soon:
Gaby Lopez – NLGSF Immigration Committee/Oaklaw
Elicia Vafaie – Asian Law Caucus
Sandy Valencia – California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance
Luis Angel- Black Alliance for Just Immigration
Who we are:The NLG is a membership organization of radical lawyers, legal workers / legal activists, law students and jailhouse lawyers, originally founded 80 years ago as the first racially integrated national bar association. Its mission is “in the service of the people, to the end that human rights shall be regarded as more sacred than property interests.” We are active on a wide range of issues. The Bay Area Demonstrations Committee started in 1984 in order to organize legal support for protests against the Democratic Convention, and has supported most Bay Area progressive demonstrations and actions ever since, from antiwar protests to Occupy, Black Lives Matter, and anti-fascist actions. Within our capacity, we willprovidelegal support for any local progressive group that opposes racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism and transphobia. The Bay Area NLG chapter does not have any legal staff and the Demonstrations Committee is a group of volunteers – we do not have our own staff.
What we have typically done so far:The Demo Committee has a volunteer pool of criminal defense lawyers, legal observers, and legal hotline workers, as well as lawyers and legal workers with specific expertise on various issues. We train and organize lawyers, legal workers, community activists, and students as legal observers, legal hotline workers, and criminal defense attorneys for demonstrators or persons targeted by the state for political activity. We provide KYR and legal self defense education, and legal briefings and advice as part of direct action trainings and pre- and post-action meetings with organizers. By request or on our own initiative, we provide legal observers at protests, raids and actions to monitor the police, document arrests and police misconduct, and help communicate with off-scene legal support about arrests. We also train activists as legal observers. We line up lawyers to be on call to deal with jail release and to provide defense of criminal charges, as much as we are able, often in conjunction with the public defender. We often operate a legal hotline during actions and until everyone is released from custody. We can also train activist groups to do their own hotline or help staff ours. Our consistent efforts to provide aggressive criminal defense to demonstrators have resulted in thousands of charges being dismissed and significantly decreased the prosecution rate for low level demonstration-related arrests locally. We try to track each arrestee’s case through the entire process, and to provide volunteer court support in collaboration with activists’ wishes. Over the years, we have followed up on major police misconduct issues through media and policy work and advocacy, complaints with civilian review bodies, and occasionally through impact litigation, and have brought about significant reforms in police demonstrations, crowd control and mass arrest policies in San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley.
Immigration Committee and crossover work:The Bay Area Chapter has a number of other committees including a very active Immigration Committee. Among other things, our Immigration Committee recently trained more than 200 people to do immigration focused KYR trainings, is coordinating many KYR requests, and is working with a number of other organizations as part of the NorCal Rapid Response Network to respond to ICE raids throughout the region.The Immigration Committee will be having its own similar meeting with stakeholders to inform its specific work.
On Sept 11, 2001, at the request of community groups, the Demonstrations and Immigration Committee members immediately formed a Post-9/11 Committee to respond to attacks on Muslims and immigrants and political repression. As the legal arm of a community coalition, we were asked to create multi-lingual KYR materials that were widely distributed in targeted communities, and a Post-9/11 Hotline for persons targeted by FBI, ICE or other government agents. The hotline was originally staffed 24/7 by activists as well as by NLG members, and would find callers lawyers for a free consultation and possible pro bono or low fee representation. We quickly obtained grants and were temporarily able to hire a staff person for the hotline and related work. Over the years since then, a number of other groups such as CAIR have hired legal staff and otherwise expanded their capacities such that there are other legal hotlines covering a large part of what the NLG post-9/11 hotline was originally set up for. However, no other local groupsprovidelawyers or legal support specifically for radical activists who are contacted or subpoenaed by FBI or other law enforcement agents. This is still an active phone number in our office but we have not been doing outreach for it and it is not currently answered live; the voicemail is checked. Nor do we have legal staff in our office. This is one example of the type of resource we would like feedback on, as to whether this type of resource is needed in the community. We would like toinviteyou to a meeting to discuss these types of questions and hear from you.
Dinner will be provided.