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National Lawyers Guild Condemns Ongoing Arrests of Legal Observers in Ferguson
At approximately 10:30 PM on August 21, St. Louis County Police arrested three National Lawyers Guild (NLG)-trained Legal Observers during a demonstration in Ferguson, Mo. protesting the fatal police shooting of unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown. All three volunteers had traveled to Ferguson together from Detroit, Mich. as part of a delegation organized by former Black Panther, Blair Anderson.
The first arrest occurred during a protest Thursday night, when a Legal Observer was taking photos of a police command station. She was arrested soon thereafter. The two other Legal Observers arrived on the scene to document her arrest when they themselves were taken into custody. They were booked at the county jail in Clayton and released around 2:30 AM the following morning.
One of the arrestees, Dennis Black, said: “The police militarization in Ferguson is just a glimpse of what is to come nationally when we realize that police brutality and the killing of unarmed black men by police is the rule rather than the exception.”
Three days prior, St. Louis County Police arrested another NLG volunteer from Chicago – bringing the total number of Observer arrests to four – in a similar pattern of police repression against Legal Observers who are monitoring and documenting police activity in Ferguson. The NLG Legal Observer program is designed to enable people to express their political views as fully as possible without unconstitutional disruption or interference by the police and with the fewest possible consequences from the criminal justice system.
For the past week, 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 groups such as the Organization for Black Struggle (OBS), coordinating bail and providing other legal support, and organizing criminal defense attorneys to represent arrestees.
Blair Anderson, a lifelong activist, former Black Panther and client of the NLG’s during the civil rights movement in Chicago, organized the Detroit delegation that brought the three arrestees to Ferguson. He said they came not only “to help monitor for civil and constitutional rights violations,” but also “to see what an occupied community looks like.” Anticipating the resumption of community protests in response to today’s lift on the water shutoff moratorium, Anderson said, “Detroit could very well end up like Ferguson.”
“I see this going well beyond the front pages of the story [of Michael Brown],” Anderson stated. The protesters “want to create a legacy… and are a role model for the mobilization of black communities around the country and around the world. And they [people of Ferguson] are handing this with great dignity,” he said.
Blair Anderson and the other Detroit arrestees will continue serving as Legal Observers in Ferguson. They paid their respects at the funeral of Michael Brown, held yesterday.
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.
Photo: An NLG Legal Observer records police activity during protests in Ferguson on August 16. (Credit: Curtis McGuire)
August 26, 2014
National Lawyers Guild