Friday, September 19, 2014

Ferguson Demonstrators Face Trial

The following is a summary of the legal situation stemming from the ongoing protests in Ferguson and around St. Louis County taken from a report by National Lawyers Guild Legal Worker, Kris Hermes. Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE) has been instrumental in not only providing excellent legal support under pressure, but also compiling and accessing information to be able to make sense of it all.

Since protests began in early August after the murder of Michael Brown, there have been more than 200 arrests:
  * Over 100 reported municipal arrests (mainly failure to disperse, resisting arrest)
  * 35 reported felony/misdemeanor arrests (mainly felony burglary, combined with misdemeanor theft)

We have not been able to track all of the arrestees (due to people not contacting the hotline), which is why the reported numbers are less than the overall arrest numbers. If you know of someone seeking support or who needs an attorney, please get them to call the MORE legal support hotline at 314-862-2249.

Most recently, after a crowd of protesters (and police) blocked a freeway last week in an act of civil disobedience, as many as 36 people were arrested mainly for unlawful assembly and trespass, with one person charged with felony assault on a police officer.

We know of five people still in jail stemming from protests across St. Louis County, and we are actively working to get all of them released as soon as possible. At least two people were shot during protests by unknown assailants, including one person who spent weeks in the hospital but is now home and recovering.

There are three primary organizations currently collaborating on legal support: <>MORE, <>NLG, and <>ArchCity<> Defenders.

With the help of resources from MORE, ACD has agreed to take on all of the municipal cases at no charge to the defendants (so far, however, municipal charges have been filed against only 10 people). One meeting of municipal arrestees was recently hosted by MORE/NLG/ACD to discuss political and legal strategies moving forward, including a discussion on the goals of reforming the bench warrant system in St. Louis and regaining the right to jury trials (a right currently denied municipal defendants facing potential jail time). If anyone knows a municipal arrestee that wants representation, please encourage them to call ACD at 314-827-5062.

With the help of a local Guild fellow, almost every felony defendant who sought representation from Guild or Guild-affiliated attorneys has been provided legal counsel. This work of finding attorneys to represent felony defendants is ongoing, in order to address the continued arrests of protesters on felony charges.

In an effort to better coordinate legal support from this point forward, there are folks working in St. Louis to form a collective of legal workers that can provide this longer term support (i.e. better coordinate and expand the Legal Observer pool, continue to organize pro bono legal representation, track the status of people's criminal cases, organize court support, etc.).

MORE/NLG/ACD and others will continue to provide legal support as long as people continue to be arrested protesting the murder of Michael Brown.

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