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Black Movement Law Project Training to Support Detroit Movements

On January 30, 2016, the National Conference of Black Lawyers (NCBL) Michigan chapter will host Black Movement-Law Project trainers for back-to-back sessions on Legal Observing (with a special emphasis on race, power & privilege) and Jail Support. BMLP has worked in Ferguson, Baltimore, Cleveland and throughout the country to support communities as they demonstrate against police brutality and systemic racism. We hope this training and meeting will serve to build ties between lawyers, legal workers, and organizers in Detroit, and to catalyze stronger legal infrastructure and movement-building in the city. 

This training is open to lawyers, legal workers, law students, and community organizers. The target audience is Black people and people of color who will benefit from specialized training on how to legal observe as someone who is disproportionately targeted by racialized police violence. 

Co-sponsored by: National Conference of Black Lawyers - Michigan, Black Movement Law Project, Good Jobs Now, and others (list in formation)

Registration link:

Trainers: Marques Banks and Nathan Sheard, Black Movement Law Project

Training descriptions:

Jail Support: Jail Support is a multifaceted system of support including tracking – finding out where people who were arrested were taken, identifying their charges and needs in anticipation of bail hearings/arraignment (when they get charged/see if they need bail) – and being outside the jail/booking to provide comfort to friends and community members who have been arrested when they get released. Jail Support also ensures that those arrested during protest have legal representation, informs family and loved ones on updates and changes, and makes sure that medical needs are being attended to. It is a way of showing solidarity & support to people who have been arrested and a way of taking care of friends and community. Jail support is important to decrease the effects of the dehumanization and isolation of jail and reminds people that they are not alone in this struggle. It’s important that we help each other navigate the overwhelming process of arrest, jail, legal counsel access, and follow up court hearings. And it’s important to come out of those cells to friends, nourishment, and support. In this training we will discuss best practices including roles, tools and supplies. We will also discuss what not to do in order to ensure the best outcomes for those we mean to support through this vital work.  

Legal Observing: Legal Observing is an essential part of mass defense. Legal observers are trained community members, legal workers, and often lawyers, who act as frontline witnesses during demonstrations and mass arrests. Legal observing is a function that lawyers and legal workers serve in democracies globally and often observers/accompaniers serve this function in countries where democratic movements are taking hold. Legal observers are not protestors and wear distinctive gear (ie. hats, or large armbands) to let both demonstrators and law enforcement know of their presence. Observers are “neutral” in that they do not engage in protests, however, they actively take down information to ensure civil liberties are respected. The National Lawyers Guild maintains an active legal observing arm for demonstrations. BMLP works closely with the Guild where NLG chapters are present. Due to the nature of these uprisings, BMLP has built upon the legal observer model of the NLG and added specific components to adapt the model to the context of a Black uprising. Simply put, these protests require legal observers who are trained in anti-racist/anti-bias, strong situational awareness, as well as traditional legal observer training. This training will marry the best practices of legal observation within a context of cultural competency.

Trainer bios:
Marques Banks is a Detroit Native, a law student at the Catholic University of America, and a member of Black Movement-Law Project. He speaks and conducts trainings for activists and organizations on legal observation, knowing your rights, and building legal infrastructures for the movement. He has provided legal support in Ferguson, Baltimore, DC, and various cities. During the Uprising in Baltimore, he trained hundreds of legal observers. With Black Movement-Law Project, he has helped create legal infrastructures in Baltimore, Louisville, and DC. He has a Bachelors of Arts in Public Administration and Public Law and Government from Eastern Michigan University. Marques continues to train and help build legal infrastructures so local organizations can sustain their movement across the country.

Nathan Sheard, co-founder of the Black Movement-Law Project, is an organizer working with the legal collective Mutant Legal, and a founding member of Just Info (a 24-hour hotline providing information regarding the criminal justice system in New York City). After years in corporate america Nathan left to focus on issues of social justice. Much of Nathan's work is in legal activism, providing know your rights training, hosting panel discussions such as “Know Your Dossier: FBI Files and FOIA Requests” and “Nothing to Hide, So Much to Lose: Understanding the NSA Leaks,” and working alongside students, community groups, and activists to plan empowering actions and post action support. Nathan has developed a strong skillset in training, implementing and organizing for jail support, and other activist work based in community engagement with the legal system. He has spent months in cities across the country training and empowering local people to build legal support mechanisms into their activism.

Earlier Event: January 29
Food Justice Friday
Later Event: February 7
5th Annual Dilla Youth Day