April 19, 2020

Hello Legal Observers,

I hope this finds each of you and your loved ones safe and in good health. This is a hard time, as we all figure out how to take care of ourselves and our communities. The NLG Michigan/Detroit Chapter has been sorting out some of the same things.

We recognize that injustice has not taken a break during this time and that always vulnerable communities are now at even greater risk. Digital activism has moved to new levels, and car caravans/rallys are becoming the new street actions. Some activists and organizers are bravely choosing to leave the safety of their homes to protest injustice and stand in solidarity with those who are the most vulnerable in our communities.

Movements need and are providing solidarity in this moment of crisis. The NLG will continue to have their back while centering the health, wellness and safety of our Legal Observer (LO) volunteers. The Legal Observer Program continues during the pandemic with some changes to protect the health and safety of volunteers.

Demos: During the pandemic, the NLG Civil Resistance Committee (CRC) will consider coordinating Legal Observers only for demonstrations and direct actions that are survival issue centered, e.g., water/electricity/gas access, evictions, tenant and essential labor organizing, homelessness, prisoners, and immigration detainees.

For now, Legal Observers will only be observing from NLG LO-marked vehicles. We may revise this over time in light of the governor’s order allowing 6’ physically distanced First Amendment activity.

Legal Observer Safety:
• Please do not volunteer to Legal Observe if you are sick, have any symptoms of COVID-19, or have been exposed to anyone who may have COVID-19.

• Volunteering to Legal Observe in response to requests put out by NLG/CRC Michigan/Detroit Chapter is a personal decision to be made individually by every trained Legal Observer. By sending requests for Legal Observers, the NLG Michigan/Detroit Chapter and CRC are not directing, ordering or advising any individual to participate.

• We require that all Legal Observers use personal protection equipment.

  • Please bring and wear your own masks and gloves, if you have them. We are aware, and you should consider also, that masks, whether home made or N-95, generally only protect others from the possibility that you might be carrying the COVID-19 virus without symptoms. They mostly do not protect you from exposure. More info on levels of masks protection here.
  • NLG has a limited supply of new gloves and homemade masks that can be made available for pick up (and you will keep them after the demo).
  • If you are able, here is a link to make your own mask.

• LOs should remain in their vehicles during a demonstration. Take videos, photos and notes as can be seen done safely from the vehicle. This means there will certainly be times when LOs cannot fulfill our traditional role of more closely documenting police-protester interactions. It is the best we can do/offer under the circumstances.

• We are making bright green NLG posters for car window identification. We will make a link available for you to print your own, if you can, or we will do our best to get them to you in advance

Additional Resources:
• NLG Covid-19 Know Your Rights (KYR): https://t.co/rXTwhpnGBW?ssr=true
• Stay tuned for a Michigan-specific Covid KYR
• Stay tuned for a Michigan-specific Covid Protestors KYR
• CDC info link

During this process, the NLG Michigan/Detroit Chapter is still working to find the best ways to support activists, organizers, our members and volunteers. Please feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns.

Our Legal Observer Coordinator, Curtis Renee, can be reached via email locoordinator@michigannlg.org or phone 313.715.8907 .

Love & Light,
Civil Resistance Committee Michigan & Detroit Chapter, National Lawyers Guild

The NLG published an in-depth discussion of these issues as well as other resources on its website: NLG Statement on COVID-19: Solidarity in Times of Crisis.