As part of our Know Your Rights (KYR) training programme, the MDC, in collaboration with volunteer defence lawyers, organises trainings for protesters, organisers and movement partners to inform them of their constitutional rights during protests and to provide information on important legal consequences to consider before, during and after an action. To request KYR training for your organization, please fill out this form. If you are a criminal defense attorney working in the Los Angeles area who has experience defending protest cases and is interested in volunteering with the MDC, please fill out the form below: legal observers do not actively participate in the protests and wear distinctive neon green hats that read «National Lawyers Guild Legal Observer.» The NYPD refused to answer questions about police conduct at Mott Haven and the NYPD`s policy regarding legal observers. The New York City Legal Department, which represents the NYPD, the mayor and the various NYPD officials and officers named in the lawsuit, did not respond to questions at the time of publication. When Shea testified before New York Attorney General Letitia James, she seemed equally skeptical. «Legal observers, I`m not sure what you`re referring to,» he told James. «Having a shirt or hat that says Legal Observer doesn`t mean that person is a lawyer. that they actually fulfil a legal function. We are actually going before us, and we have had incidents of many people committing crimes and violations, and we have responded to those facts. Last Wednesday, during a protest that resulted in seven arrests, legal observer Chloe Davis, 33, was arrested for misconduct. Not everyone was convinced.

Two weeks after the Mott Haven kettle, the New York Bar Association issued a statement saying it was «seriously concerned.» «The fact that legal observers have become targets of the police shows that policing strategies have failed in these communities,» the statement concluded. «Reports of police warnings that legal observers are in the area, the subsequent targeting and detention of these observers, and the forced disclosure of privileged documents indicate an appalling disregard on the part of police forces for the fact that their behaviour in our society is governed by the rule of law.» The guild`s Rhode Island chapter, a national association of progressive lawyers, often sends legal observers to protests to act as third-party witnesses and document police behavior, including arrests, use of force, intimidation, denial of access to public spaces, or other acts that appear to restrict protesters` constitutional rights. In a letter Sunday to NYPD Chief Dermot Shea, the president of the New York chapter of the National Lawyers Guild called for discipline for NYPD officers who searched and arrested NLG legal observers during a protest in the Bronx on Thursday. «Legal observers do important work to protect protest rights in the streets, and attacks on legal observers are attacks on those rights,» said Oliver, the attorney who filed the lawsuit, along with Elena Cohen and Remy Green. «The presence of legal observers is a deterrent to police misconduct. If there is misconduct that targets legal observers, but there is no meaningful transparency and accountability, it sends two messages: that it is acceptable to treat legal observers in this way, and that people who volunteer to be legal observers should expect this kind of treatment. Krystin Hernandez, a law student at City University of New York and one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, was working as a legal observer during the protests when they were arrested by police. Hernandez tried to show police the documents identifying her as a major worker, but as if filmed, the police snatched the documents from their hands and then threw them face down before handcuffing them. Another plaintiff, Rex Santus, also a CUNY law student, ran into trouble with police outside the kettle, according to the complaint. Santus was in Mott Haven around 6:30 p.m.

when eight police officers jumped out of an unmarked van and surrounded him. Santus wore his green hat and ID card and carried papers showing he was an important worker exempt from curfew, but the police prevented him from leaving, interrogated him and seized his notebook, read his notes. One accused him of «illegal counter-surveillance of the NYPD.» Eventually, the police let Santus go, and he continued his work during the protest, only to be thrown to the ground by the police and handcuffed flexibly. Santus has not worked as a legal observer since. Official observers do not enjoy any special constitutional status; Everyone on the street, from passers-by to journalists, has the same right to observe and document police actions. But the work of legal observers is important. Collecting the names of those arrested during protests is the first step in ensuring they have legal representation. During mass arrests at the 2004 Republican National Convention, these names allowed lawyers to obtain habeas corpus warrants for hundreds of protesters illegally detained by the NYPD, sometimes for days, without access to lawyers. A National Lawyers Guild volunteer is arrested during the George Floyd protests in New York City in June 2020. The NYPD has been repeatedly sued for its response to the protests.

(Court documents) Terence Monahan, the head of the NYPD department at the time who personally oversaw the action in Mott Haven, told DOI investigators that responsibility for detaining the legal observers lay with the legal office, but that he ordered their release as soon as he learned they had been detained. Monahan spoke to a representative from the mayor`s office who was at the scene, he said. «I told him personally that I would release all legal observers.» NLG legal observers are an essential component of the NLG`s mass defense program, which began in 1968. For the past 50+ years, the guild has provided legal support to enable people to express their political views as fully as possible, without unconstitutional interference or police interference. NLG will use the full support of our network of thousands of lawyers to support the protesters, including our liaison offices and the many journalists and street doctors who have also been arrested or injured during these police riots. The alleged reason for the mass arrest was that protesters had violated a 8 p.m. curfew. Although this justification is undermined by the fact that the NYPD detained protesters well before 8 p.m. This is doubly absurd in the case of legal observers who carried documents confirming that the mayor`s office had identified them as essential workers exempt from curfews. The effect, says Gideon Oliver, one of the lawyers for the 12 legal observers filing the lawsuit, is an NYPD that has stepped up its attacks on one of New York City`s key free speech bodies. «Legal observers perform important functions when police make arrests during protests, and this targeted arrest of NLG legal observers at the scene is something that NYPD leaders and city officials have sanctioned by refusing to conduct a meaningful investigation into what happened or impose disciplinary measures.» Oliver said.