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NLG Legal Observer Arrested While Documenting Ongoing Police Violence in Ferguson
At approximately 12:30 AM on August 20, St. Louis County Police arrested Max Suchan, a Legal Observer® with the National Lawyers Guild (NLG). Suchan, a Chicago law student, traveled to Ferguson to document police misconduct and help protect community residents' First Amendment rights in the wake of Michael Brown's murder.
Prior to Suchan's arrest, the police repeatedly charged the crowd on Florrisant Ave., appearing to target unarmed black youth for arrest. The police pushed the protesters down the street and gave dispersal orders without clear directions for how people should leave. Suchan observed several police in riot gear pointing their guns at an African-American man, forcing him roughly to the ground before placing him under arrest. While attempting to ask the arrestee for his name so he could be tracked in jail (a standard Legal Observer® procedure), Suchan was also forced to the ground and arrested. He was booked at the St. Louis County Justice Center in Clayton and released several hours later. Suchan was released with a pending application of warrant (“PAW”), meaning that the County has 30 days to press charges if they so choose.
Following his arrest, Suchan stated: “I am shocked by the extreme level of violence police exhibited towards residents in their own community, as well as Legal Observers® and members of the press. I observed numerous arrests where people seemed to be singled out by police in a “snatch and grab” fashion, merely because of the color of their skin. I observed several residents arrested while trying to negotiate an exit route with police. Several of my co-arrestees were bleeding and had bumps and cuts on their faces from being thrown to the ground. The police are terrorizing Ferguson and those who support the struggle for police accountability and an end to racial inequality.”
For the last five days, the NLG has had a team of Legal Observers® on the ground in Ferguson to monitor police activity and offer legal support to protesters. The NLG has been documenting rampant police abuse at demonstrations, working with local organizations on coordinating bail and providing other legal support, and organizing criminal defense attorneys to represent arrestees. The Guild has extensive experience doing mass defense work for movements for social and political change, including Occupy Wall Street.
Even during his hours-long detention from inside the police van, Suchan continued doing mass defense work, documenting the cases of co-arrestees and monitoring police activity. He will be back on the streets as Legal Observer® tomorrow.
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.
To support the NLG's efforts in Missouri, please visit nlg.org/ferguson.
Photo: Screengrab from this RT video depicting Suchan's arrest.
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