Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Update on J20 prosecutions

More than 200 folks are facing very serious charges and jail time when they were mass-arrested during public protests at the Trump inauguration. For instance, prosecutors are using Facebook "likes" of the disruptj20 website as evidence of an intent to commit violent protest.

NLG's communications director, Tasha Moro, has an excellent update on the trial in this case and how it intersects with new surveillance initiatives against protests on the left, including Black Lives Matters.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Vigil/rally for Jason Pero

On November 8th, 14 year old Jason Pero was shot and killed by an Ashland County Deputy in front of his home in Odanah Wisconsin on the Bad River reservation. 

Neighbors and relatives challenge the official story put out by the Wisconsin Dept. of Justice, and their videos contradict the officer's claim that he was in danger from a middle school kid with a knife. The Bad River tribe has demanded a federal investigation.

Come bring lights, drums, and songs to remember this young singer, drummer, and keeper of his Anishinabe peoples' traditions. Demand justice for him and protection for indigenous people across the world as we close out Native American Heritage month in the U.S.A. Our heritage should no longer excuse violence against our indigenous relatives.

We will begin at Wisconsin DOJ's office on West Main Street and proceed to the US Attorney's office on West Washington Avenue.

Thursday, November 30th, 4:30-5:30pm

Please come and invite your friends.

Giving Tuesday for NLG

From NLG's executive director:
On this global day of giving back, please consider making a $50 donation to support the National Lawyers Guild.
As the first integrated bar association and the oldest and most extensive network of social justice activists working within the legal system, the National Lawyers Guild has been resisting oppression for 80 years. With over 150 chapters and 20 committees, the NLG continues to be at the forefront of movements for social justice both in the United States and internationally. In this time of increasing state repression and political uncertainty, we need your support now more than ever.

So please mark your calendars for Tuesday, November 28th and make a donation in support of the NLG’s work on #GivingTuesday.

Thank you,
Pooja Gehi
Executive Director
NLG National Office
132 Nassau Street, Rm. 922
New York, NY 10038
Given the current political climate, the NLG's efforts at protecting protests against pipelines, the young, gifted & black, criminal justice reform, the environment, and free expression and association for those on the left will be ever more important in 2018.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Comments on SB303 and SB304

On 19 October 2017, our own PK Hammel testified about SB303 and SB304. These bills "allegedly" address rioting and blocking of roadways. Here is her testimony:

The Madison chapter of the National Lawyers Guild opposes the proposals to further criminalize public protest which are the basis for SB 303 and 304, the “riot” act and adding penalties for blocking access to streets and buildings. This legislation is unnecessary and constitutionally over-broad in sweeping protected speech and assembly into the criminal code and making felons of law abiding citizens. 
To be clear, threatening an act of violence against a person is already a crime. Section 947 of the Wisconsin Statutes already prohibits disorderly conduct (misdemeanor), disrupting a funeral or memorial service (misdemeanor or felony for repeat offenders), intimidation or harassment including by use of a computer (forfeiture to felony), threats of bombs or biological or toxic substance release (felonies) terrorist threats (felony since 2015) and unlawful assemblies (misdemeanor) including blocking entrances to buildings and failing to disperse when ordered, with additional punishments for University of Wisconsin students and employees. 
Causing damage to property is also currently a crime in Wisconsin pursuant to sec. 943 of the statutes with enhanced penalties (felony) for damage to roads, public utility property and archaeological or cultural sites. Assault against another person is also a crime under sec. 940 of Wisconsin’s statutes; battery is generally a felony now, with increasing penalties for battery to vulnerable individuals and special provisions for vulnerable individuals, and law enforcement officers (threats are also felonies).

So what do SB 303 and 304, adding the “riot” provision and singling out groups of three or more (?) accomplish? They make “Whoever participates in a riot” in which someone else, who may be completely unknown or even adverse to the person being charged, a felon by association. 
These proposals are unnecessary and unconstitutional. It is worth remembering that the State has lost challenges to over-broad penalties against groups of four assembling in the Capitol without a permit as recently as 2013. U.S. District Court Judge William Conley issued an injunction against enforcement of the Wisconsin Administrative Code and Capitol Access policies on July 8 2013, finding that the Dept. of Administration’s assembly permitting scheme was improperly content based and overly broad, and that the plaintiff Michael Kissick had shown a likelihood of success in his case against DOA Secretary Huebsch and Capitol Police chief Erwin. 
To be constitutional, a statute limiting First Amendment rights of speech and assembly must be narrowly drawn to achieve a legitimate objective. A statute criminalizing the mere presence of a person with two or more others who are violent or threatening violence is NOT narrowly drawn. It is overly broad. It chills protected conduct by imposing a potential felony charge on someone who is not doing anything wrong, and may be participating in activity that deserves the highest level of constitutional protection. 
A felony charge is a serious matter. The number of attorneys who take cases of people charged with felonies is relatively limited because these are serious charges that can affect a person’s access to jobs, housing, education and the right to vote. Retainers for attorneys in a felony case are in the thousands of dollars. The State Public Defender’s office is underfunded and the number of attorneys who take private appointments has declined because private attorneys can’t keep their doors open getting $35 an hour. 
You may say that other states have “riot” bills so we should have one too. Those states (North Dakota being the one I am most familiar with) do not have unlawful assembly bills and the penalty for participating in a “riot” is a misdemeanor there. 
1. This crime is a B misdemeanor North Dakota has three levels of misdemeanors: Class A, Class B, and Class C. A class B misdemeanor carries a Maximum penalty of 30 days in prison, a $1,500 fine, or both. N.D. Cent. Code Ann. § 12.1-32-01 (West). 
2. The terms of the crime A person is guilty of Engaging in a Riot if he participates in “a public disturbance involving an assemblage of five or more persons which by tumultuous and violent conduct creates grave danger of damage or injury to property or persons or substantially obstructs law enforcement or other government function.” N.D. Cent. Code Ann. § 12.1-25-03 (West). N.D. Cent. Code Ann. § 12.1-25-01 (West).” 
Most of the people charged with “riot” in North Dakota last year have had their charges dismissed. Merely being there has not been found sufficient reason to sustain a misdemeanor charge. Wisconsin does not need a “riot” statute and people who assemble to exercise their free speech rights should not face felony charges. There are already penalties for committing acts of violence or being parties to such activity, and for blocking streets, and escalating penalties that adequately address any illegal activity. 
The Madison Mass Defense group, involving attorney and legal worker members of the National Lawyers Guild, ACLU and others concerned about federal and state constitutional rights to petition and protest the government, represented over 100 defendants given over 330 tickets in the “crackdown” ordered by Capitol Police Chief Erwin since he became chief in 2013. Only one case went to a jury trial resulting in a guilty verdict, nearly all of them were dismissed by the prosecuting Wisconsin Attorney General’s office after every Dane County judge assigned to the cases dismissed them. 
The Madison Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild is the local arm of the national organization of lawyers, legal workers, law students, and jailhouse lawyers. The National Lawyers Guild represents progressive political movements, and its motto is that human rights are more sacred than property interests.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Chicago Community Bond Fund Interview

Shadowproof has an interview with Max Suchan about the Chicago Community Bond Fund.
CCBF is a part of a local coalition, the Coalition to End Money Bond, which includes labor, legal advocacy, and faith-based organizations. They have put pressure on the city to reform the money bond system. Externally, Suchan said, the city also has noticed a national trend demanding reforms to the most racist practices in the criminal justice system.
Lawyers affiliated with the coalition launched a lawsuit last year that seeks a “declaratory judgment that Cook County’s bond-setting practices violate the Constitution; that actually they disproportionately impact people that don’t have money, and it’s a system that punishes people because they’re poor,” according to Suchan.
* * *  
Of 180 cases that we’ve tracked of people that were given money bonds, within seven days, only half those people were able to post their bonds,” Suchan added. “Fewer than 10 percent were able to pay their bond at their review hearing. Most people are not getting review hearings at all.”
“More than 90 percent of cases that we’ve been tracking are not given bond reviews within the seven-day review period or after.”
“It’s very rare that I’m sitting in court, where I don’t see something particularly disturbing. It happens. That’s the norm. It’s not actually the exception,” Suchan shared.
Listen to the interview of Max Suchan by going here.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Legal primer on DACA

The folks at Balkinization have created a detailed legal primer on DACA rescission along with descriptions (and links) to various efforts at challenging the rescission.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Police crackdown in St. Louis

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has details about military officers, med students, and many, many neighbors being abused by police officers in St. Louis. Here is one such incident:
A documentary filmmaker from Kansas City, visiting with his wife, said he was knocked unconscious during the sweep. Drew Burbridge, 32, said he never heard orders to disperse until officers started to advance, banging their batons and chanting, “Move back.”
“I turned my camera off and asked if there was anywhere I could go, but I was denied the right to leave,” he said. “I didn’t want to be a part of this.”
Officers ordered him to turn his camera off and get down on the ground, and he complied.
“The only thing I cared about then was putting my arms around my wife,” he said. “I just, I just kept saying: ‘It’s going to be OK.’”
Burbridge said officers then grabbed him by both his arms and dragged him away.
“I just said: ‘I am a member of the media, I am not protesting, I am not resisting,’” Burbridge said.
An officer sprayed his face with a chemical, his head was forced into the ground and an officer ripped his camera from his neck.
Burbridge claims his hands were then bound by zip ties before two officers started kicking him in the back, neck, arm and legs while he lay restrained on the ground. He said he was knocked unconscious on the pavement for about 10 to 30 seconds.
After he came to, Burbridge said an officer lifted his head by his hair and pepper sprayed him in the face again.
Naturally (or rather, un-naturally), these events trace back to Ferguson and the protests there:
When all hell broke loose in Ferguson, Missouri, after the murder of a Black, unarmed teen, it was not clear, to the untrained eye, all of the intersecting forces that had collided. In the weeks— and months—following the murder of Mike Brown by Ferguson cop Darren Wilson, those forces became more visible.
Political disenfranchisement. A majority African-American city (nearly 70%) was being ruled by a minority white city council, school board, and police department.
Segregated housing. As Black residents from the City of St. Louis were pushed north of the city limits, municipalities like Ferguson steered them into particular neighborhoods and wards.
Failing schools. Mike Brown made it to graduation, but unbeknownst to most people outside of St. Louis, his high school was part of an unaccredited Black school district. His diploma was worthless in the real world.
Militarization of the police. St. Louis County police were trained by the Israeli military in counter-terrorism tactics. During the Ferguson Uprising, police departments unveiled their arsenal of military weaponry made possible with the support of the 1033 Program that donates billions of dollars in surplus military equipment to mainly urban police departments.
Labor solidarity. It was difficult to ignore the role of labor, especially once it was revealed that Mike Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, was a member of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW). In the aftermath of the Ferguson Uprising, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka met with key leaders on the ground, and proclaimed that racial justice would be central to his labor organization. This gutsy proclamation has resulted in tensions inside the labor movement, tensions that will have to get resolved as the demographics of workers become more Black and brown, and more female.
International solidarity. In a matter of days after unbridled anger manifested on the streets of Ferguson, messages of unity from other parts of the world, in struggling against capitalism and globalism, took social media by storm. Most notable were words of advice and solidarity from Palestinians who instantly recognized the military tactics used on them daily. There were lots of hashtags connecting Ferguson and Gaza, and soon #BlackLivesMatter protests were happening in major cities around the world, from London to Tokyo ...
Excerpt from Jamala Rogers, FERGUSON IS AMERICA: THE ROOTS AND RISE OF UNIVERSAL RESISTANCE, featured in Charlie Derber, Welcome to the Revolution.