Legal Support for Demonstrations: What You Need to Know

Ever seen the number 415 285-1011 written on people’s arms? That’s us, the National Lawyers Guild and Fists Up Legal Collective! We’re here to provide legal support. We want to make sure that everyone knows what that means. Also, we want everyone to know that just like you, many of us have jobs, school, and other commitments, and while we’d love to be ready to support you at the drop of a hat, we can’t always do that!

If you've been arrested in a recent Black Lives Matter protest, you should let us know by calling the hotline number above or by using our online form. If you've experienced police misconduct at one of these actions, please go here and fill out a police misconduct report.

Also, please read this statement and share it with your fellow activists so that we can be there for as many people as possible.

Here’s what we will try to do:

Legal hotline

  • The legal hotline is used to track arrests, get calls from jail, and conditions at the protest. Legal observers also call us on the hotline to let us know what’s happening.
  • We try to staff a legal hotline for demonstrations that we know about and keep it running as late as we can on nights when people are out late.
  • We also will try to keep the hotline staffed during business hours for the foreseeable future.
  • We cannot guarantee that the hotline will be staffed when you call, even if it is during the times listed above,

Legal observers

  • Legal observers monitor the police, document arrests and police misconduct, and help communicate with off-scene legal support regarding arrests .
  • We will try to provide legal observers for demonstrations that we know about.

Education

  • We’re happy to provide know your rights trainings if asked.
  • We would love to have members of your groups get trained to help us do legal support.

Mass Defense

  • We will try to find lawyers to meet with and defend arrestees on criminal charges. We can usually find lawyers willing to work for free, at least through pre-trial proceedings in misdemeanor cases, but we can’t guarantee that we will be able to do so.
  • After a large mass arrest, NLG will help organize a follow up legal meeting with arrestees, if necessary.
  • The National Lawyers Guild generally follows up on police misconduct issues through media and policy work, dialogue with the police and 
other agencies, complaints with civilian review agencies where appropriate, and on occasion, pursues civil action in the courts.

Here’s what we don’t do, and what we need help with from you:

  • We can’t run the legal hotline 24/7.
  • We can’t guarantee that there will be legal observers at every demonstration.
  • We can’t communicate with the police on behalf of the demonstrators. We ask the organizing group to designate your own police liaisons or spokespeople;
  • We’re dealing with several hundred arrests already. We can’t collect every arrestees' names and information. Please help us gather arrestee information by getting it beforehand (if someone is definitely risking arrest) or gathering it after people get out of jail and sharing it with us all at once. Here’s a link to the kind of information we need (see page 6).
  • We can’t handle jail support logistics such as picking people up when they are released, contacting employers etc. 
We hope activists will step up to help provide jail support. We help coordinate communication where we can (for example, if someone has called us from jail who needs medication brought to them, we will let a support person know that information).
  • We cannot provide bail or bonds. The Anti Repression Committee has a very limited bail fund: http://oaklandantirepression.wordpress.com/
  • We cannot guarantee finding a free lawyer in every criminal case, particularly where charges are serious, 
through jury trial.
  • We do not generally make individual civil referrals (referrals to attorneys who can help you sue the cops).