We head into summer with a big year of events coming up. Our NLG chapter has been busy and vibrant.
Longtime NLG member and movement lawyer Lynne Stewart is still in a Texas prison, despite the filing of a compassionate release petition with the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Her supporters are calling for people to call the Attorney General, the White House, and the Bureau of Federal Prisons to call for action on her behalf.
Our largest membership and fundraising event, the annual Testimonial Dinner, on April 27, 2013, was an exciting success with over 450 people in attendance. We celebrated the movement legal work of our Champion of Justice honoree, Walter Riley, because of his legacy of decades of civil rights work in alliance with NLG. The City of Oakland designated April 27 as Walter Riley day.
We have known Walter through his years of dedication as a movement lawyer activist, providing solidarity pro bono representation for cases of Justice for Oscar Grant and Occupy Oakland demonstrators, and a long history of civil and human rights work in the Bay Area, Haiti, North Carolina, and everywhere in between. After the dinner, Walter Riley’s son, Boots Riley, and his band the Coup, performed a great set of the satirical political hip hop and irresistible beats they are known for. The evening was full of inspiring energy and was among the most diverse dinners in recent history.
May Day this year was an opportunity to reconnect with the workers and immigrants rights movements we have been supporting for decades. Our Demonstrations Committee, with the help of NLG staff, has developed a more targeted system of recruiting and organizing legal observers, attorneys, and legal workers to support the marchers and other demonstrators. Our boost in volunteers from Occupy made providing NLG support easier this year.
In Oakland, an immigrants’ and workers’ rights march began with speakers at Fruitvale Bart, and a spirited march to Mi Pueblo market on High Street off International Boulevard, where workers have been resisting the implementation of the flawed and discriminatory “E-verify” program. Legal observers marched side by side with demonstrators. A significant OPD presence followed the march from behind and the front.
Later that night, more NLG legal observers supported a march in solidarity with the national workers’ rights campaign for $15 an hour for fast food workers. Other NLG legal observers supported the SF march from 24th Street in the Mission to the Civic Center.
We’ve got an exciting year of events to look forward to this year.
In a state with a Democratic governor with a history in the Bay Area, it is disappointing to see such intransigence in shifting away from mass incarceration politics. Jerry Brown has continued the paradigm of cruel and wasteful spending on prisons, and resisted the mandates to cut the prison population. Many NLG members have been supporting the California prison hunger strikers, in their just struggle for an end to the torture of solitary confinement, for an end to the unfair gang validation system that puts people in solitary, for an end to indefinite solitary confinement, and for basic improvements in the conditions of people in California’s so-called “Secure Housing Units” (SHUs). Because the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and its leaders have not followed through on promises to improve conditions and respond to complaints of systematic human rights violations, activists inside the SHU are restarting their hunger strike in July 2013. NLG members are involved in the class action lawsuit, doing prison visits, and spreading the word to build public support. More information is availabe at prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/.
In the Fall, we have the annual Progressive Lawyering Day coming up. This year, after several years of holding our annual fundraising auction at the Holiday Party, we plan to hold a Fall Auction event again, as a way to provide opportunity for our members to network and socialize, and fundraise for the Guild. Donations of vacation homes, artwork, and other hot auction items are appreciated! We could always use more volunteers as well.
Finally, we hope that as many Bay Area Guild members as possible will be able to make it to the NLG Convention in Puerto Rico, in October 2013.