ALAA Roots — An Unofficial Site

January 16, 2015

2015.01.16: Lawyers March For Release Of Eric Garner Grand Jury Records (Huffinton Post)

Filed under: Civil Rights,Criminal Justice,Police Abuse,Racism — nyclaw01 @ 11:22 am

Huffington Post

Lawyers March For Release Of Eric Garner Grand Jury Records

Posted: 01/16/2015 11:22 am EST Updated: 01/16/2015 11:59 am EST


NEW YORK — Eric Garner’s mother and daughter stood outside the 120th Precinct in Staten Island on Thursday before a crowd of over 100 people.

Everyone held lit candles, and at exactly 4:38 p.m. — the same time Eric Garner was put into a chokehold by NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo on July 17 — they blew out the flames.

eric garner

Seven minutes of silence followed — which the Garner family said symbolized the amount of time Eric Garner lay on the sidewalk without medical attention before he died.

“I love you all and thank you for the support,” Gwen Carr, Eric Garner’s mother, told the crowd. “It’s heartwarming. That’s all I can say.”

Eric Garner’s daughter, Erica Garner, then led the crowd in a song.

“I can hear my father screaming ‘I can’t breathe!’” she sang. “Now I’m in the struggle and I can’t leave. We’re calling out the violence of the racist police. We ain’t gonna stop, until the people are free. We ain’t gonna stop, until the people are free.”

eric garner

Erica Garner

“We’ve been doing this for almost 6 months now,” she told the crowd. “This is a great turnout. Don’t lose sight. We still fighting. Don’t lose sight. Don’t get discouraged. We still fighting, still fighting for justice.”

Erica Garner then led the protesters on a march through the streets to Richmond County District Attorney Daniel Donovan’s office.

The crowd Thursday was made up primarily of attorneys from the Legal Aid Society, which provides legal services to low-income New Yorkers. In a press release, the lawyers listed a series of demands, including an end to the “unconstitutional and disparate policing of communities of color.”

They also called for the appointment of special prosecutors “when local police officers are charged with crimes,” as well as “an end to the secrecy of grand juries and their proceedings against public officials, including an immediate unsealing of the grand jury minutes of Daniel Pantaleo’s case.”

eric garner

“What happened to the police officer who killed Mr. Garner is in stark contrast to what we see in court every day,” Bina Ahmad, a Staten Island Legal Aid attorney, said in a statement.

In a video that eventually captured the world’s attention, a white NYPD officer named Daniel Pantaleo can be seen putting Eric Garner, who is black, into a banned chokehold during an arrest for selling untaxed “loosie” cigarettes. Garner screams “I can’t breathe!” 11 times, until his body goes still.

Despite the video, a grand jury last month declined to indict Pantaleo, setting off massive protests across the city and the country.

“NYPD officers accused of crimes receive immediate access to legal counsel, are barred from being questioned by police investigators, and ultimately gain the benefit of being prosecuted by their colleagues in the local DA’s office – if they’re prosecuted at all,” Ahmad continued.

“My clients see none of that,” she added. “For them, it is guilty until proven innocent.”

Legal Aid is one of four petitioners set to argue in court later this month that theminutes, or transcripts, of the grand jury investigation into Garner’s death be released to the public. Grand jury records are typically sealed, but Legal Aid lawyers have argued it’s in the public’s interest to know why the grand jury returned no indictment.

“Release the minutes!” the lawyers chanted outside District Attorney Donovan’s office on Thursday. “Release the minutes!”

Donovan, a Republican, is running in a special congressional election to replace Rep. Michael Grimm, who resigned last month after pleading guilty to tax evasion.

On Thursday, Erica Garner had a special message for Donovan and others running for office in Staten Island.

“Expect a vote from our community,” she said. “From now on, we pick our leaders. They pick our issues. Period. Never forget.”

From the district attorney’s office, the protesters marched further into the Tompkinsville section of Staten Island, waving signs and chanting “No justice, no peace!”

Thursday’s march was one of the more robust demonstrations in the city since Dec. 20, when two NYPD officers — Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos — were killed by a lone, mentally unstable gunman in Brooklyn. After the shootings, Mayor Bill de Blasio called for demonstrators to take a break, and the Garner family announced that they were postponing any planned protests until after the officers’ funerals.

On Thursday, demonstrators often took over the street, while a handful of NYPD community affairs officers followed along, doing their best to keep the demonstrators away from traffic.

One high-ranking officer kindly pleaded with Erica Garner to keep everyone on the sidewalk. She obliged, and when they arrived on the block where her father died, the protesters formed a single-file line.

Each protester then took a turn dropping white carnations at the spot where Eric Garner screamed “I can’t breathe!”

This Saturday will mark six months since Eric Garner’s death. Cynthia Davis, a National Action Network representative who works with the Garner family, told protesters that there will be a “celebration of Eric Garner’s life” that day at 382 Jersey Street in Staten Island.

It’s a celebration, Davis said, because “Eric Garner was more than a loosie and more than a chokehold.”

January 15, 2015

Legal Aid stands up in solidarity (Socialist Worker)

Legal Aid stands up in solidarity

Lucy Herschel, a delegate in 1199SEIU and paralegal at the Legal Aid Society, reports from New York City, on protests by some of those on the front lines of the justice system.


Legal aid workers are joining their voices with the Black Lives Matter movement (Association of Legal Aid Attorneys – UAW 2325)

UNION ATTORNEYS at the Legal Aid Society organized a walkout from the Brooklyn Criminal Courthouse on December 17 in protest of a criminal justice system that railroads poor people of color every day of the week—yet is incapable of indicting police officers.

Led by members of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys, UAW Local 2325, the walkout involved public defenders from other agencies, as well as members of my union, 1199SEIU, which represents the support staff at Legal Aid.

In my 17 years at Legal Aid, I have never seen anything quite like this. From the courthouse, we marched through the streets to the Brooklyn House of Detention, chanting everything from “Black lives matter” to “Indict, convict, send those killer cops to jail. The whole damn system in guilty as hell!”

At the Brooklyn House, we staged a die-in in remembrance of Akai Gurley, the unarmed Brooklyn man who was shot and killed by a police officer conducting a vertical patrol in an unlit housing project stairwell. We then marched around to other courthouses, taking over the entire Manhattan-bound side of the road leading to the Brooklyn Bridge. One of our last stops was the Brooklyn district attorney’s office, where we continued to chant our demands for indictment for police officers who brutalize and kill.

As Anne Oredeko, one of the main organizers of the action, stated:

We had to do this action to show solidarity with the communities we represent. We do work in communities of color, especially poor communities of color where the police consistently brutalize them, consistently assault them, consistently cause physical harm and damage to individual members of the communities. So we had do this protest today to show solidarity with them, to demand an end to “Broken Windows” policing, to demand the end of police brutality, to demand an end to mass incarceration.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THE BROOKLYN action was part of an unprecedented wave of public defenders in several cities around the country holding protests and die-ins in December to denounce the bias of the criminal justice system in the wake of the Eric Garner and Mike Brown decisions.

On December 16, 250 lawyers, clients and supporters staged four-and-a-half minutes of silence on the courthouse steps in New Orleans. On December 17, die-ins were held at courthouses in Philadelphia and Los Angeles. On December 18, public defenders in five counties in the Bay Area held simultaneous lunchtime protests on the steps of their respective courthouses.

Public defenders are in a unique position of being in the front lines of the court system, able to see the overall picture of what kinds of cases are being prosecuted and how. Day in and day out, they see clients’ lives turned upside down over petty offenses. Every day, they see their mostly poor, mostly Brown and Black clients railroaded on weak and conflicting evidence. And every day, they fight an uphill battle in a court system that systematically defers to the police and prosecutor.

As another organizer of the Brooklyn action, Bina Ahmad, said, much of what is being prosecuted are crimes of poverty, from turnstyle jumping to sleeping on subway cars. “I have a client who was recently indicted [in felony charges] for driving with a suspended license,” Ahmad said. “His license was suspended because he couldn’t afford to pay all the fines and tickets he owed. So now he’s going to jail.”

She pointed out how the system is set up to profit off these arrests and to control poor populations. “I don’t think the system is broken,” she said. “I think it’s working just the way it’s supposed to.”

As Oredeko sees it, there is a direct connection between this kind of over-policing and level of police brutality and killings. “When you designate a whole entire population as criminals,” she said, “then you see what we see here today, and that is police brutality reaching dramatic levels.”

For many Legal Aid attorneys, this issue is not just about their clients, but about their own families and neighborhoods. As another coworker, Lisa Edwards, a 25-year veteran from the Harlem office, put it, “Our union has a history of mobilizing around issues like this. We have a duty to mobilize and take steps to address issues that affect our work and the people we serve. But I think this is even more compelling for people of color at Legal Aid.”

She told me this was brought home to her when she took her family to the December 13 Millions March. Her 10-year-old son made a poster with a drawing a person videotaping a cop shooting someone in the head. They then spontaneously organized their own form of performance art, her son laying down on the street, Lisa outlining his body in chalk and her daughter writing “Who’s next?” below. They did this about seven times through the march, including in front of lines of cops.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

WHILE THERE are many like Lisa who have been involved in this kind of work for decades, there has undoubtedly been an increase for several years now of staff members being involved in broad activism around criminal justice issues: from fighting the horrifying conditions at the Rikers Island jails, to ending stop-and-frisk policing, to fighting around the case of Kyam Livingston, who died while waiting to be arraigned in the Brooklyn Courthouse, to other cases of police killings like Ramarley Graham and Shantel Davis.

In large part because of pressure exerted by the union and its attorneys of color caucus, Legal Aid has been more and more successful at recruiting and retaining attorneys of color, many of whom are leading these recent actions. In general, we have been impacted by an influx of new attorneys, both of color and white, with activist experience and inclinations.

More and more, union members appear to be looking to merge the work we do every day with a broader vision of activism and social justice. Union members have also begun to push management and Legal Aid as an institution to lead around these issues.

I believe we still have a lot of work to do in terms of merging this fight for social justice outside the workplace with a fight for justice on the job. Part of fighting for quality legal services means fighting for the kind of pay and working conditions that allow people to make a life and a career. However, unlike most public defenders offices, we are unionized, which at least gives us the building blocks for taking on that fight.

Meanwhile, organizing around police accountability continues. Staff members at the Staten Island Legal Aid office where Eric Garner was a client are now organizing for a protest and vigil at the 120th Precinct on January 15, Martin Luther King’s birthday and the six-month anniversary of Garner’s death.

Members in all five boroughs are meeting to prepare to mobilize. As organizers in Ferguson have emphasized, it is going to take a sustained struggle around the issues of police brutality, mass incarceration, racism and inequality to change things in this country. Public defense workers in New York and around the country have begun to throw their weight into this fight.

January 9, 2015

2015.01.09: Lawyers Will March on MLK’s Birthday (Josh Norkin, NYLJ)

Filed under: Civil Rights,Criminal Justice,Indigent Defense,Police Abuse,Racism — nyclaw01 @ 12:00 am

Lawyers Will March on MLK’s Birthday
Joshua Norkin, New York Law Journal

January 9, 2015

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and FreedomU.S. National Archives and Records Administration

As public defenders, we are witnesses to all forms of injustice. When you are arrested in New York, we are usually the first friendly face you will see. Our clients lose their jobs, their driving privileges, face deportation and may be forced from their homes for simply being accused of crimes they may or may not have committed. We are the lawyers tasked with helping members of the community start to put back together the pieces of their lives after they have been falsely accused, and the ones tasked with making sure citizens receive the proper legal advice when they have made a mistake.

Murder is murder, and there never is an excuse or justification under any circumstances. The deaths of New York City Police Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos are unquestionably a tragedy.

In our view, their deaths should not stop a productive conversation about police tactics in New York City from continuing. What remains so heartbreaking about the deaths of Akai Gurley and Eric Garner is that these are not isolated incidents. As public defenders we know that these deaths were a by-product of the police misconduct that many of our clients deal with every day. We recognize it because it is an extension of the same police transgressions that bring us clients, overwhelmingly from communities of color, with bloody noses and broken bones for being accused of trespassing in their own buildings, jumping a subway turnstile or riding a bike on the sidewalk.

Much of the legal community has turned a blind eye to the injustice. That is why on Jan. 15, 2015, at 3:30 p.m. at the Staten Island Ferry terminal, we will be joined by lawyers from across the state and members of the community to march in peaceful and nonviolent protest past the Staten Island courthouse, the district attorney’s office and the 120th precinct to call for changes to a broken legal system. As public defenders, and lawyers tasked with upholding fairness and the rule of law, we believe we are uniquely suited to call attention to the issues that plague the criminal justice system.

As lawyers we must take responsibility for a system that broke on our watch. Police misconduct is a serious problem, and we must find a better way to hold those responsible accountable for their actions. As we mourn the death of Eric Garner, and celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we will call for the immediate unsealing of the grand jury minutes of Officer Daniel Pantaleo’s case.

In the same vein, we also believe that secret grand jury proceedings should cease, and the unconstitutional and disparate policing of communities of color must end. We march because Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once told us that, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” As public defenders we can stay silent no longer, we hope the rest of the legal community will join us.

Joshua Norkin
The author, a member of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys,
UAW Local 2325, is an appellate attorney with the Legal Aid Society
in Manhattan. ALAA represents more than 1,000 attorneys working
with Legal Aid in all five boroughs, the Federal Defenders of the
Eastern and Southern Districts, the Legal Aid Society of Nassau County,
and the Legal Aid Society of Orange County.

January 5, 2015

2015.01.05: #BlackLivesMatter: Upcoming action and related materials

Filed under: Civil Rights,Criminal Justice,Palestine,Police Abuse,Racism — nyclaw01 @ 3:06 pm

From: Letwin, Michael
Sent: Monday, January 05, 2015 3:06 PM
Subject: #BlackLivesMatter: Upcoming action and related materials


SIMLKAmadouALAA Garner


Upcoming Protests + Events
Millions March NYC
New Yorkers Against Bratton


Despite Deaths of Two Officers, Movement Against Police Brutality is Just
‘From the recent release of the U.S. torture files to the televised police war against poor black and brown people across the street of America, the protests against the police today are fueled, in part, by much larger forces: the arrogant and global display of depravity on the part of a US empire on the decline.’

Whose lives matter in New York City?
‘Two powerful forces with deep roots in this country are squaring off: the Black freedom struggle against patriotic, militarized racism. The past few weeks in New York City are a taste of what that conflict will look like in the years to come.’

I’m Sorry the Brooklyn Cops Were Murdered. But I Can’t Mourn Them
‘This double standard is why thousands of NYC protesters defied Mayor de Blasio’s order to halt protests until the police officers had been buried. Growing numbers of people from all racial backgrounds refuse to go along with the devaluation of the lives of the slain civilians and the sickening disrespect shown in the aftermath.’

Labor must reject Pat Lynch’s bitter bile
‘In 1967, King gave a powerful speech at Riverside Church explaining his decision to speak out against the Vietnam War at a time when many people said he should remain quiet. He said, “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” Labor’s silence now is a betrayal.’

Smash the Lynch Mob
‘Unions were pivotal in the civil rights movement. They must act again as agents for social change. The struggle for economic justice is inseparable from the struggle against police violence.’


The racist, classist origins of broken windows policing
‘Broken windows policing is back in New York City, and it may have killed Eric Garner.’

The 6-Step Process to Wipe Out the Poor Half of America
‘The poor are criminalized for lying down or sleeping in public; for sharing food; for simply having nowhere to go.’


The American Justice System Is Not Broken
‘America is a serial brutalizer of black and brown people. Brutalizing them is what it does.’

Angela Davis: ‘There is an unbroken line of police violence in the US that takes us all the way back to the days of slavery’
‘[I]t’s not only about demanding that this one individual cop be convicted but it’s also about recognising the connection between racist violence and the profit machine. That’s what we’re fighting against.’

Origins of the police
‘Anti-Black racism was built into American police work from the very first day.’

Stop Kidding Yourself: The Police Were Created to Control Working Class and Poor People
‘Their basic job is to enforce order among those with the most reason to resent the system – who in our society today are disproportionately poor black people.’

Who Killed Eric Garner?
‘Unquestionably, Pantaleo should be held accountable for murdering Garner. But the same standard of justice should be brought to bear on the economic system that leaves people unemployed due to debilitating asthma, that forces them to peddle cigarettes on the street to make a living. It is this system that should be charged as an accessory to murder, for leaving Garner helpless against a killer in uniform.’

Taking the Initiative Back For the Movement After the Brinsley Killings
‘As long as the rich rule at the poor’s expense, as long as the gulf between them is a largely racialized one that continues to widen, racist cops will keep on doing all the wrong things to all the wrong people.’


‘SELMA is the story of a movement. The film chronicles the tumultuous three-month period in 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a dangerous campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of violent opposition.’

The armed occupation inside the empire
‘Today, we have the chance to take up the struggle King gave his life to launch–a movement of workers, Black, Latino, Native American, Asian and white, to oppose America’s military brutality abroad and its racist police at home in an effort to transform our society and world into a new system that puts people before empire and profit.’

Demand This Now from Our Broken Justice System
‘Stop sending police to get trained in Israel. That country treats Palestinians horribly. It has nothing to teach us.’

Palestinians Express Deep Solidarity with U.S. Minorities’ Struggle for Justice, Equality and Dignity
‘We strongly believe that the oppressed of the world must stand united in the face of racism, racial repression and injustice. Together we can prevail. Together we shall prevail.’

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