As the Occupy Wall Street movement grows all around the country, many protestors have been arrested for trespassing, failure to disperse and other such violations. To help them navigate the legal system, many attorneys are stepping up the plate – at no charge.
The services they’re providing? Drafting and filing motions, monitoring the protests as legal observers, advising the protestors about negotiating with city leaders, and showing up on short notice to provide representation for jailed protestors.
Carol Sobel, co-chair of the Mass Defense Committee of the National Lawyers Guild was quoted as saying in the October 30th kansascity.com article, “Volunteer lawyers help ‘Occupy’ protesters through legal system”: “It’s probably bigger than the anti-war movement, because there are so many simultaneous demonstrations. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Cincinnati attorney Jennifer Kinsley was quoted as saying: “What if we had shut the civil rights movement off after three days? Would we have had the Civil Rights Act? Would we have had Martin Luther King Jr.? Would we have had progress? No.”
In recent days, when police attempted to disperse Occupy Los Angeles protesters who had put up tents on a street corner along the motorcade route of President Barack Obama, who was in town for fundraisers, an observer contacted Sobel. Per the article, she advised the group to stay where they were, based on the argument they were being singled out unfairly, as the street wasn’t being closed, nor were any businesses being asked to close. Likewise, no one on the street, including pedestrians were being searched or removed from the area.
Sobel was quoted as saying regarding the incident: “They stood their ground, the president came and went and there was no problem. But there’s always that constant pushback. That’s why the lawyers are so critical, because they can give information to the protesters and vigorously arm them with the law. And the law’s on their side.”
The National Lawyers Guild is a non-profit federation of lawyers, legal workers, and law students. Since 1937, Guild members have been using the law to advance social justice and support progressive social movements. The Guild has chapters throughout the United States, and its National Office is located in New York City. The NLG is dedicated to the need for basic change in the structure of the country’s political and economic system. It seeks to unite the lawyers, law students, legal workers and jailhouse lawyers to function as an effective force in the service of the people, to the end that human rights shall be regarded as more sacred than property interests, according to information at the Guild’s website.
According to the information at Occupy Wall Street’s website, “Occupy Wall Street is a leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%. We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to achieve our ends and encourage the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants. This #ows movement empowers real people to create real change from the bottom up. We want to see a general assembly in every backyard, on every street corner because we don’t need Wall Street and we don’t need politicians to build a better society.”