Mass Chapter in Action – Review of 2017
We can collectively say that 2017 has been a year of brutal and devastating challenges to our community: community of radical lawyers, activists, and people fighting for justice and freedom from oppression. In these times under the Era of 45, the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild has doubled down on its efforts to support and defend radical and leftist movements throughout the state.
Starting in January we faced the Muslim travel ban enacted by the executive office. And right there in Boston Logan Airport, NLG attorneys were involved in both protesting the ban and assisting detained travelers as they were trying to come home. It was a turbulent January as these airport protests reinforced the real life battles marginalized and minority groups would face in the coming months and possibly years.
What was most heartening at this time was the over swell of supporters and activists that truly wanted to be part of the fight for justice. The NLG Mass Chapter received a tremendous amount of calls asking for support and individuals asking to be involved. Both ends were overflowing and the members of the NLG Mass Chapter showed up tremendously. The Chapter enlisted many of its wonderful members to conduct trainings and legal clinics on Stop & Search, Direct Action, Housing Law, Workers Rights, Bankrupcy Law, and Legal Observing. At the same time, last spring we offered a series of trainings called Train the Trainers for interested NLG members, so they could later conduct NLG trainings and clinics themselves. The trainings included Stop & Search, ICE Encounters, and Direct Action for attorneys to then train and run workshops for community groups seeking assistance. The Street Law Clinic, which facilitates these trainings, has also expanded at a staggering pace as we have scheduled over 30 clinics partnered with community organizations this year.
Both our most trying and most inspiring moment may best be seen by looking back to the August 19th rally organized by local community members against Nazi rhetoric in Boston Common. We had over 25 legal observers volunteer that day and the Mass Defense Committee collaborating with private and public criminal defense attorneys to take on representation for over 30 arrestees. The NLG Mass Chapter made a bold and definitive stance to fight alongside movements against white supremacy by having attorneys there all day to observe interactions with the police and all night to ensure that all arrestees were bailed out as soon as possible.
We are tremendously grateful to the Chapter supporters who have donated their time and expertise to our work and who, like our Sustainers, have supported us financially. This year the Chapter has received substantial financial support from the Defense Against Thought Control Foundation with a grant of $75,000 for our Litigation and Mass Defense Committees and from Pam Rogers with a gift of $5,000 to develop a new Chapter website. Pam has also spent countless hours working with the website designers to have the new site ready for January of 2018.
While this show of support and effort from both outside and within has been heartening, we are hopeful that people can sustain this energy and continue to work with the NLG Mass Chapter in any kind of way that the climate would dictate. Right now we have a Board membership that has changed and now includes both legal and non-legal folks and people of color at its helm. While this is wonderful, as an organization dedicated to anti-racist work, fighting white supremacy, capitalism, misogyny, and anti-LGBTQIA attacks, the NLG Mass Chapter needs your help and support more than ever.
– Chapter Co-Chairs – Rebecca Amdemariam & Carl Williams
(top-bottom) Legal Observer at the anti-nazis protests in August (Photo by Carl Williams). Around 100 legal professionals gathered on a freezing January day in front of the District Court in Boston to protest the inauguration of Trump; the rally was organized by Benjamin Evans, member of the NLG Mass Chapter Board (Photo by Urszula Masny-Latos). Fall Event for the Chapter Sustainers (Photo by Julia Wedgle).