Request for Funds to Help the NLG Support Movement Activists and Orgs

Comrades,

As you are no doubt aware, 2020 has brought what at times seems like a never-ending barrage of challenges to our struggles for social justice.  The continued rise of armed fascism, a deadly pandemic and the government’s inadequate response to it, climate crises, severe economic instability, a tidal wave of evictions and ongoing water shutoffs, the list goes on and on.  And yet the critical work for survival and social justice, too, must go on.  This year, following, among others, the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, people around the country took to the streets in record numbers in support of the movement to protect Black lives and end police terror and systemic racism. We now have the largest Civil Rights Movement in American history.  Daily demonstrations have been held in multiple cities around the country demanding an end to police brutality, an end to racist policing and criminal justice systems, and a meaningful, not merely symbolic, recognition that Black Lives Matter. 

Marches and demonstrations began in the city of Detroit and throughout Michigan following the May 25, 2020 murder of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin, and have not stopped, over 135 days later, despite brutal attacks by the police in response.  [as of the writing of this letter mid-Oct, 2020]

And when the people are in the streets, the NLG is in the streets.  

Our Legal Observers, staff, board, and committee members have worked tirelessly to support activists in the streets, behind the scenes, and in the courts.  Under the leadership of our NLG Legal Observer Coordinator, we have trained over 160 new Legal Observers in the past 5 months, with many more training sessions scheduled.  We have taken steps to secure personal protective equipment (PPE) for Legal Observers to help protect them from the coronavirus and from dangerous chemical weapons used by police.

The NLG has recruited and is organizing volunteer attorneys to represent the more-than-400 people arrested in Detroit alone, and is an active member of an extraordinary coalition of amazing criminal defense and social justice organizations, comprising the Detroit Coordinated Defense Coalition, including: National Conference of Black Lawyers (NCBL), Detroit Justice Center (DJC), Neighborhood Defender Service (NDS), Wayne County Criminal Defense Bar Association, and Michigan Liberation.  The NLG is also an active participant in the Coalition for Police Transparency and Accountability with NCBL, DJC, NDS, Michigan Liberation, and the Wayne County Criminal Defense Bar Association, along with the Detroit Council of Elders, EMEAC, Hush House Black Community Museum, Boggs Center, MCHR, Moratorium NOW!, Riverwise Magazine, and We The People of Detroit.

We currently represent over 300 protesters arrested for exercising their rights to speak out against the unbroken legacy of institutional racism and violence brought on by the state and law enforcement for generations.

In addition to leading the local movement’s criminal defense efforts, we have also filed a civil rights lawsuit on behalf of Detroit Will Breathe and several individual plaintiffs, challenging the constitutionality of the unprecedented level of violence the Detroit police have levelled against the protesters.  This lawsuit has resulted in a Preliminary Injunction against the Detroit Police, enjoining them from using batons, shields, tear gas, rubber bullets, chokeholds, mass arrests without probable cause and other tactics against nonviolent protesters, Legal Observers, and medics.

In addition to the outrageous police attacks and en masse arrests of protesters, police also beat and arrested NLG Legal Observers in Detroit and Kalamazoo.  We are working on gathering a team of civil rights attorneys to sue on behalf of our Legal Observers, as well as medics and journalists, who have been clearly targeted by the Detroit Police Department. 

Right now, in the streets and in the courts, the people rely on the NLG to support them in their struggles for justice.

Since late May, the NLG number (313-925-2626) has been printed on handbills, written on arms, chanted in the streets, and memorized by many as the movement number to call if you’re arrested or injured, or witness an arrest or injury.

We work with Michigan Liberation’s Jail, Street, and Mental Health Teams as well as The Bail Project and the Michigan Solidarity Bail Fund to support protesters by getting them out of jail, documenting their experience, and connecting them with legal representation and trauma care resources.

The NLG receives daily requests from activists to have Legal Observers present at Black Lives Matter demonstrations around the state, and mobilizes Legal Observers to be at actions nearly every day. Also, during demonstrations, we have attorneys on call, track arrests as they happen, and work with on-the-ground Legal Observers and jail and street team support.

We answer emails and phone calls 7 days a week; monitor the court system online for protester cases being filed (often we are the only way protesters know they have a court date); connect demonstrators with legal representation and help them navigate the legal system; and manage hundreds of legal cases for protesters who were violently arrested demonstrating in defense of Black lives.

This exciting and unprecedented level of protest activity has filled our abolitionist hearts, but drained our budget. 

The one thing we haven’t been busy with is raising money! It’s probably no mystery why we’re saying all of this to you, comrades—it’s because we need money.  Our two paid staff are putting in an extraordinary number of hours, and we’ve had to purchase and set up various systems and equipment to sustain the movement work. However, because of COVID-19, our main fundraising sources have been curtailed or are unavailable.  And it doesn’t look like the demand for our services will be letting up any time soon. 

We know there is a lot of demand for your time and money right now, especially with the election on the horizon, but even $20 dollars or whatever you can spare to support those fighting the good fight on the streets and in the courts of Michigan, would make a big difference.  All donations will go to training, equipping, and fielding more Legal Observers; administering the large protester defense team; litigating FOIA requests on behalf of large groups brutalized by the police; paying our extremely hard-working staff and getting them the equipment they need; and otherwise helping the Guild support this historic peoples’ rights movement.  We all know this will not be over in November.  It’s going to be a long haul, but only when we can come together in solidarity will we all see victory for the People.

Solidarity, 

The Board of Directors of the National Lawyers Guild Detroit & Michigan Chapter, Oct 16, 2020

Please donate to support the NLG! 

PayPalbit.ly/3nXygMA

Cash App: $NLGDET or https://cash.app/$NLGDET

Check or Money Order: National Lawyers Guild, P.O. Box 311458, Detroit, MI 48231