Last week, in Manhattan Criminal Court, three of the 700+ people arrested last year on the Brooklyn Bridge finally had their days in court. Over a two-day trial, the court heard testimony about what brought them to Zuccotti Park last October and what their state of mind was when they proceeded onto the bridge. The judge found that the exhilarating moment when the police appeared to lead people onto the bridge created a reasonable doubt about their intent to block traffic, and on this basis, two of the defendants were found Not Guilty, after more than a year of adjournments. During this intervening year, protesters made several thousand appearances in criminal court, where they were regularly greeted and assisted by NLG-NYC Mass Defense members. Time and time again, they were told “thanks so much for being here — we couldn’t do what we do without you.”
Contributing to the National Lawyers Guild-NYC helps ensure that we can continue working on behalf of protesters, low-income tenants, the thousands of people subjected to overzealous policing, workers, and others who regularly get the short end of the stick. Because the Guild is deeply invested in the practice of law for the people, we have no big foundation or corporate contributors. We depend on our members and donations from our supporters to sustain our work, and would like to ask you to help with this support.
Contributions can be made online at http://nlgnyc.org/contribute, or via check made out to NLG-NYC and sent to National Lawyers Guild-NYC, 113 University Place 8th floor, New York, NY 10003. Please see the web page for information regarding tax deductions.
For highlights of the NLG-NYC’s work over the last year, please download our latest newsletter at http://nlgnyc.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/NYC-NYC-News-November2012-final4.pdf, featuring work on Occupy Wall Street, the Stop Stop and Frisk trial, surveillance in the Muslim community, and many more details of Guild work in action. Here is a brief description of the work of some of the Chapter committees:
Members of the chapter’s Mass Defense Committee were in the streets as legal observers and in the courthouse assisting with arraignments and court appearances. With more than 800 protesters arrested in 2012 while asserting their free speech and assembly rights, MDC members were in Manhattan Criminal Court nearly every week to expedite the arraignments and subsequent appearances of arrestees.
The chapter’s Anti-Racism Committee presented a series of low-cost and free CLE’s focusing on housing justice, including tenant organizing, non-payment evictions, affirmative litigation for repairs, and NYCHA termination proceedings. ARC also co-hosted a successful party this summer to raise funds for the national TUPOCC travel stipend.
The Muslim Defense Project‘s first full year of activities included facilitating Know Your Rights workshops that provide a realistic assessment of the dangers of interacting with law enforcement officials, in consideration of their repressive tactics, without the presence of an attorney. The MDP provided legal and activist support for those Muslims and Palestinian human rights activists facing government persecution in the courts and stood in solidarity with the local Muslim community by attending and speaking at rallies calling for police commissioner Ray Kelly’s resignation. The MDP also presented a major panel at this year’s NLG national convention.
The Street Law Team continued to tailor its Know Your Rights workshops to address the increased presence of police in communities of color and the NYPD’s unrepentant use of stop and frisk. The curriculum was also expanded to include information specific to immigration status and the Secured Communities program. The Team produced a business-card sized Know Your Rights card in English and Spanish to accompany these workshops.
The Mass Incarceration Committee (which was formally recognized in November) has taken the lead in communicating with the Guild’s many jailhouse lawyer members, and is presently receiving submissions from incarcerated members who would like to be part of the MIC’s steering committee. The committee’s inaugural event, a screening of the documentary “Broken on All Sides” by Philadelphia Guild member Matt Pillischer, will be held in March 2013, in conjunction with the Anti-Racism Committee.
The Military Law Committee assisted a service member at Ft. Drum charged with a long-term unauthorized absence who was facing jail time for desertion. After lengthy negotiation by Committee members, he was given an administrative discharge, which allowed him to avoid a criminal record and to secure employment.
The Next Generation Committee’s annual City-wide Disorientation introduced over 150 law students to the work of the NLG-NYC, with topical workshops and trainings in Street Law, Immigration Court Observation and Legal Observation. The relationships established at Disorientation are nurtured and strengthened at monthly NextGen social meet-ups throughout the city.
The Labor and Employment Committee presented two CLEs aimed at developing closer relationships among workers’ rights advocates in NYC: “Occupy Labor Law” at 1199 SEIU, and “On Offense: Tools for Worker Justice” at Cardozo Law. Members of the L&E Committee are currently working with the newly formed Post Hurricane Sandy Task Force.
The new Post-Hurricane Sandy Task Force developed a factsheet on health hazards present in storm clean-up work, and has been helping to coordinate legal volunteers to staff clinics in Staten Island and the Rockaways.
At a time when legal courage is in short supply, it is more important than ever that this work continue, which can only happen with the help of a community of supporters. Please consider making a contribution to the National Lawyers Guild-NYC at http://nlgnyc.org/contribute.
National Lawyers Guild – New York City Chapter Executive Committee