A LITTLE ABOUT US
Welcome to the homepage of the Vermont Law School Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. The National Lawyers Guild is dedicated to the need for basic and progressive change in the structure of our political and economic system. Through its members—lawyers, law students, jailhouse lawyers and legal workers united in chapters and committees—the Guild works locally, nationally and internationally as an effective political and social force in the service of the people.
The National Lawyers Guild is a nationwide group of lawyers, law students, legal workers, and others interested in social, economic, and political change. The VLS Chapter sponsors events designed to increase public awareness of civil rights, national security, environmental, and social justice issues. Specifically, the VLS Chapter hosts trainings, conferences, a radical speaker series, and advocates participation in the democratic process through non-violent direct action.
VLS NLG: BLack Lives Matter Day of Action
On Thursday, April 2, two days before the 47th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., National Lawyers Guild (NLG) students and faculty will hold a day of action at law schools nationwide in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement against racist police violence and white supremacy. VLS NLG will host a moment of silence at noon and ask supporters to wear read in remembrance.
Despite strong, grassroots organizing and regular demonstrations since the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, police killings of unarmed Black Americans continue with impunity. This week, NLG members will coordinate with other student and local groups to disrupt business as usual and call attention to the racist legal system which criminalizes and oppresses people of color.
As the nation’s first racially integrated bar association, the NLG has a long history of standing with social movements that challenge systemic criminalization and marginalization of people of color. The Guild’s commitment to racial justice continues today, and student members recognize their responsibility to working toward a more just legal system: “As law students, we support the work of activists who directly fight oppression and the racism of our society. We also appreciate our privilege and our responsibility to fight the same racism and oppression within our legal system, especially through supporting the work of radical activists by fighting their criminalization,” explained Tasha Marshall, President of the NLG chapter at Western New England School of Law.
Since the movement emerged from Ferguson last August, NLG students have been offering support and solidarity through legal observing at protests, holding “know your rights” trainings on police encounters, organizing demonstrations, and hosting events to discuss the links between racism, law enforcement, and the broader criminal justice system. In a recent statement on the Department of Justice’s scathing report on the Ferguson Police Department, Co-chair of The United People of Color Caucus (TUPOCC) of the NLG Oren Nimni states, “The NLG stands in full support of those actively resisting these policies and practices. We are encouraged by the work of Black Lives Matter activists in Ferguson and nationwide which has brought much needed public attention to the racially discriminatory policing practices that caused the deaths of Oscar Grant, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tony Robinson, and countless others. While we can and should continue to push for legal reform, it is also abundantly clear that the legal system sanctions and incentivizes the repression of Black communities, and that resistance is required.”
This Thursday, law students and faculty will bring the movement to law schools by a series of actions designed to publicly tie law enforcement’s continual disregard for Black lives to a racist and oppressive legal system. NLG Chapters from San Francisco to Boston will be organizing vigils, moments of silence during classes, trainings and events to bring awareness to the legal community, and visible reminders such as posters and banners at their law schools.
Claire White, NLG National Student Vice President and member of the UC Davis Law Guild chapter explained: “As students, we spend much of our time in the classroom studying history and theory, while all around us the Black community is being directly targeted and oppressed at all levels by the justice system we're preparing to serve. It's time for law students of conscience to stand up and speak out.”
NLG BLACK LIVES MATTER NATIONAL LAW STUDENT DAY OF ACTION IN LIGHT OF THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE’S RECENT SCATHING REPORT ON LAW ENFORCEMENT PRACTICES IN FERGUSON, MO, THE NATIONAL LAWYERS GUILD (NLG), THE UNITED PEOPLE OF COLOR CAUCUS (TUPOCC) OF THE NLG, AND THE NLG ANTI-RACISM COMMITTEE (ARC), JOIN COMMUNITIES IMPACTED BY POLICE VIOLENCE TO CONDEMN THE ACTIONS OF THE FERGUSON POLICE DEPARTMENT AND CALL FOR INCREASED OVERSIGHT AND ACCOUNTABILITY FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT SYSTEMS NATIONWIDE. FURTHERMORE, THE RECENT KILLINGS OF 19-YEAR-OLD TONY ROBINSON BY A MADISON, WI POLICE OFFICER, AND 43-YEAR-OLD CHARLY “AFRICA” LEUNDEU KEUNANG IN LOS ANGELES, CA, ARE A REMINDER THAT THE FERGUSON PD IS NOT EXCEPTIONAL. RATHER, THE VIOLATIONS HIGHLIGHTED BY THE DOJ ARE SYSTEMIC AND NATIONAL IN SCOPE, RESULTING IN A REALITY WHERE ONE OF EVERY THREE BLACK MEN IN THE UNITED STATES WILL SPEND TIME IN PRISON AND EVERY 28 HOURS, A BLACK PERSON IN THE COUNTRY IS KILLED BY A POLICE OFFICER OR PRIVATE SECURITY; .
THE DOJ REPORT HIGHLIGHTS A NUMBER OF EGREGIOUS VIOLATIONS ON THE PART OF THE FERGUSON PD. FIRST, REVIEW OF CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN CITY OFFICIALS AND INTERVIEWS WITH POLICE OFFICERS SHOW THAT “FERGUSON’S LAW ENFORCEMENT PRACTICES ARE SHAPED BY THE CITY’S FOCUS ON REVENUE RATHER THAN BY PUBLIC SAFETY NEEDS.” AS A RESULT, POLICING ASSIGNMENTS ARE GEARED TOWARD “AGGRESSIVE ENFORCEMENT OF FERGUSON’S MUNICIPAL CODE,” AND BOTH STOPS WITHOUT REASONABLE SUSPICION AND ARRESTS WITHOUT PROBABLE CAUSE ARE UBIQUITOUS IN VIOLATION OF THE FIRST AND FOURTH AMENDMENTS. THE MUNICIPAL COURT AGGRAVATES THE DEVASTATING IMPACT OF THESE UNCONSTITUTIONAL POLICING PRACTICES BY USING “ITS JUDICIAL AUTHORITY AS THE MEANS TO COMPEL THE PAYMENT OF FINES AND FEES THAT ADVANCE THE CITY’S FINANCIAL INTERESTS.” IN 2013, THERE WERE 1.5 TIMES THE NUMBER OF OFFENSES AS FERGUSON RESIDENTS, A NUMBER EVEN FERGUSON PD ADMITS IS “STAGGERING.”
MOREOVER, THE RACIAL BIAS IS UNDENIABLY RAMPANT. DATA IN THE REPORT SHOWS THAT AFRICAN AMERICANS ACCOUNT FOR 85% OF VEHICLE STOPS, 90% OF CITATIONS, AND 93% OF ARRESTS MADE BY FERGUSON PD OFFICERS, DESPITE COMPRISING LESS THAN 70% OF FERGUSON’S POPULATION. AFRICAN AMERICANS ARE MORE THAN TWICE AS LIKELY TO BE SEARCHED DURING VEHICLE STOPS THAN WHITE PEOPLE. NEARLY 90% OF DOCUMENTED FORCE USED BY FPD OFFICERS WAS USED AGAINST AFRICAN AMERICANS, INCLUDING EVERY DOCUMENTED INCIDENT OF A CANINE BITE. THESE STATISTICS DEMONSTRATING RACIAL BIAS ARE HARDLY SHOCKING; RATHER THEY MIRROR STATISTICS SHOWING RACIALLY DISCRIMINATORY STOP AND SEARCH PRACTICES IN BOSTON, NEW YORK CITY, LOS ANGELES, AND ELSEWHERE AROUND THE UNITED STATES.
THE NLG STANDS IN SOLIDARITY WITH COMMUNITIES HARMED BY WIDESPREAD RACIAL BIAS AND AGGRESSIVE LAW ENFORCEMENT TACTICS LIKE THOSE REVEALED IN THE DOJ’S FERGUSON REPORT. THESE PRACTICES ARE NOT ONLY MORALLY UNACCEPTABLE—THEY ARE ILLEGAL AND UNCONSTITUTIONAL. IN THE CONTEXT OF INCREASINGLY BETTER FUNDED, MILITARIZED, AND TECHNOLOGICALLY ADVANCED POLICE DEPARTMENTS, SUCH PRACTICES PERPETUATE STATE VIOLENCE AGAINST COMMUNITIES OF COLOR RATHER THAN PROTECTING PUBLIC SAFETY. TUPOCC CO-CHAIR OREN NIMNI STATES, “THE NLG STANDS IN FULL SUPPORT OF THOSE ACTIVELY RESISTING THESE POLICIES AND PRACTICES. WE ARE ENCOURAGED BY THE WORK OF BLACK LIVES MATTER ACTIVISTS IN FERGUSON AND NATIONWIDE WHICH HAS BROUGHT MUCH NEEDED PUBLIC ATTENTION TO THE RACIALLY DISCRIMINATORY POLICING PRACTICES THAT CAUSED THE DEATHS OF OSCAR GRANT, MICHAEL BROWN, ERIC GARNER, TONY ROBINSON, AND COUNTLESS OTHERS. WHILE WE CAN AND SHOULD CONTINUE TO PUSH FOR LEGAL REFORM, IT IS ALSO ABUNDANTLY CLEAR THAT THE LEGAL SYSTEM SANCTIONS AND INCENTIVIZES THE REPRESSION OF BLACK COMMUNITIES, AND THAT RESISTANCE IS REQUIRED.” ARC CO-CHAIR HANNAH ADAMS ADDS, “THE NLG ANTI-RACISM COMMITTEE CONDEMNS ANY USE OF THE LEGAL SYSTEM TO PERPETUATE SYSTEMIC RACISM AND VIOLENCE AGAINST COMMUNITIES OF COLOR. NLG MEMBERS JOIN THE BLACK LIVES MATTER MOVEMENT IN CALLING FOR AN IMMEDIATE OVERHAUL OF LAW ENFORCEMENT SYSTEMS THAT ENACT RACIAL VIOLENCE."
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This winter, communities throughout Vermont are sitting down together to read Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism VS The Climate together.
At libraries, at schools and in people’s homes, people are gathering to discuss This Changes Everything. Sign up to learn more here. So far we have book groups confirmed and welcoming more members in the following towns:
Barre, Bennington, Brattleboro, Burlington, East Montpelier, Johnson, Marshfield, Norwich, Rutland, Warren, White River Junction
And more groups are forming! Here are a few that are in the works:
Hardwick, Lyndon, Middlebury, and Shelburne
Is your town not listed? Consider starting a group near you. Take a look at the Calendar link below for more details and Sign-Up!
Now: Public Comments Open: Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units (Clean Air Act §111(d) Rule)
Now: Defend Our Free Press Campaign Petition
April 2: Black Lives Matter Day of Action moment of silence at noon.