NLG-NYC Mass Defense Committee Rejects New NYPD Protest Unit

By Ben Meyers, March 9, 2015 2:11 pm

NLG-NYC Mass Defense Committee Condemns NYPD Proposal to Create a Special Operations Unit to Handle Demonstrations, Urges City Council to Reject Additional Funding.

For Immediate Release

March 9, 2015 – New York – In response to the Black Lives Matter protests in NYC, Police Commissioner Bratton announced the proposed formation of a massive new Strategic Response Group (SRG) that would handle future demonstrations or “civil disorders”. The plain intent of such a surge in police resources is to suffocate political dissent, especially among those New Yorkers already most susceptible to police attention. The National Lawyers Guild-NYC Mass Defense Committee condemns such a proposal, and urges the City Council to reject additional funding for the SRG.

By way of comparison, the size (and additional cost) of this new 550-officer force would be several times the number of officers budgeted for the entire Community Affairs Bureau (182 officers in 2014); larger than the entire current Counterterrorism Division (budgeted for 482 officers in 2014) and likewise larger than the entire Intelligence Division. Over the next five years the cumulative expense for this surge would certainly cost New Yorkers hundreds of millions of dollars. This will not increase the safety of New York City’s communities, and will drain financial resources from those communities already most in need.

The character of this proposed unit is also alarming. Deploying large-scale, paramilitary-style, “tactical” forces from the Special Operations Division in New York’s neighborhoods would contradict a community-based approach that draws on the officers of the neighborhoods’ Precincts and Boroughs – an approach that, until now, has often been proudly cited by NYPD’s own leadership as a distinctive character of policing in New York. Indeed, the proposal would adopt the very same discredited Special Operations approach taken in Ferguson, Missouri, widely criticized as contributing to the escalation of violence and destruction.

These are not the reforms the NYPD needs, or that New Yorkers have been demanding. Rather, this targeting of demonstrators threatens to chill protest at a time when a new generation of young black and brown leadership is sounding its voice, along with the wide spectrum of New Yorkers seen in the streets during the December 13 Black Lives Matter march. The SRG, rather, sends the message “Black-led civil rights struggles must be quelled, by any means necessary.”

NYPD has said that they would make these new tactical forces available to Precincts and Borough commands on occasions when the SRG is not otherwise on call or carrying out the necessary continuous training. However, even for these uses, NYPD’s experience with other tactical forces, such as the tragedies of the Street Crimes Unit, have proven that highly tactical forces, trained and equipped for confrontation, are not easily integrated into the day-to-day needs of the Precinct Commanders or the neighborhoods they serve.

In summary, the Strategic Response Group proposal is unjustifiably massive, dangerous in its approach, and wasteful. Ferguson should not be the model for policing protest in New York City. To amplify the voices of New Yorkers and support safe communities, the City Council must reject the Strategic Response Group proposal.

The Mass Defense Committee of the New York City chapter of the National Lawyers Guild was created in the spring of 1968 in response to Vietnam war protests and arrests at Columbia University. Over the intervening decades, the MDC has provided Legal Observers at thousands of demonstrations and appeared in court for thousands arrested as they marched and rallied for civil rights, immigration rights, economic justice, reproductive rights, or against police misconduct and war. For more information on the Committee, click here.

Update from Lynne Stewart

By Ben Meyers, August 15, 2013 6:30 pm
Dear Guild members,

The NLG-NYC has sent the linked letters to Charles Samuels, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder calling again for the compassionate release of Lynne Stewart.

We urge chapter members to take similar action,  outlined in Lynne’s most recent letter below.

August 10th, 2013

Friends, Supporters, Comrades:

Well, we are once again being educated in the meaning of “protracted struggle”, not that anyone wanted or needed this.  It was clear yesterday in Court in NYC that Judge Koeltl was not going to act solely within the “spirit ” of the law but would instead rely upon the Bureau of Prisons to make a “legal” motion on my behalf.  Although the lawyers valiantly argued that justice does not allow for a “right” without a “remedy”, in my case, the right to die at home and the fact that there is no appeal(remedy)from the Bureau’s decision.

There are new and compelling facts now before the BOP–the prognosis now of 18 months and the fact that the PET scan revealed that the most serious cancer (of the lungs) is getting worse.  The Judge yesterday, asked the Government to concede (as their papers did by not contesting any facts) that I qualified in every respect for the release.  They, of course, remained silent.   For that reason I am asking once again that all of you send a “shout” out to the BOP [Federal Bureau of Prisons], AG Holder and Pres. Obama and express any outrage you might feel that the days and months are ticking by and I remain in Texas.  The DC Prison Bureaucracy clearly would just as soon see me die here.

So, not to be discouraged or disheartened by this latest legal impediment–the walls of Jericho DID come tumbling down, eventually !!

Love Struggle,

NLG-NYC Supports Striking LSSA Staff Attorneys

By Ben Meyers, May 16, 2013 6:09 pm

[PDF of letter available here]

May 16, 2013

Raun Rasmussen, Executive Director
Joseph Genova, Board Chair
Legal Services, NYC
40 Worth Street, Suite 606
New York, NY 10013

The National Lawyers Guild-NYC Chapter fully supports the members of the Legal Services Staff Association UAW Local 2320 who were forced to go on strike on May 15. The Chapter urges the management of Legal Services NYC to immediately negotiate a fair contract with its staff. The current offer that was unacceptable to LSNYC staff fails to address key issues, including the ratio of management to staff. Currently Legal Services NYC has a ratio of 1 manager to every 3 bargaining unit employees, a seemingly wasteful ratio compared with the Legal Aid Society, which operates with 1 manager for every 5 employees.

Failing to address the issue of ratios, LSNYC instead attempts to slash healthcare benefits, virtually eliminating fertility treatments, a vitally needed service for couples trying to create a family. LSNYC also goes after 403(b) retirement benefits, seeking to cut them by 29%. For an organization that already offers its employees no pension, such cuts to retirement benefits are unpalatable.

Perhaps most alarmingly, these cuts do not just affect the employees of the organization, but will also diminish the client services central to the mission of Legal Services NYC. By undercutting employee benefits without a corresponding salary increase, LSNYC management force LSSA members out on strike, and the poor people of New York City who are served by LSNYC are denied the representation so critical to defending their rights.

We urge the management of Legal Services NYC to return to the bargaining table in good faith. The current offer from management would result in no cost-of-living salary increase, reduced healthcare, and cuts to retirement, and does not appear to be fiscally necessary. These givebacks will not serve the short-term interests of the staff, or the long-term interests of the organization and its clients. Looking upon an organization that prides itself on providing justice to vulnerable clients, we ask: Where is the justice for the staff of Legal Services NYC?

The National Lawyers Guild, founded in 1937, is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has chapters in every state.

National Lawyers Guild, New York City Chapter

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