The Role of Legal Observers in the Community
Legal Observers are trained volunteers who support the legal rights of activists. They provide basic authorized guidance and are independent witnesses of police behavior at protests.
Legal Observers are unbiased of the protest and do not participate as activists. They help protestors by:
- Distributing bust cards and briefing activists about their rights.
- Keeping notes about the actions of the police on protests, which may be later used to challenge the police on their conduct.
- Monitoring arrests, including collecting witnesses and helping to connect the arrestee with assist within the police station.
Authorized observers to have no official legal status or privilege, but the police are often aware of the role and authorized observers may act as a deterrent to police wrongdoing.
Legal Observers are not:
- Medics (GBC has separate medics on some large actions)
- Media spokespeople
- Stewards or police liaison: legal observers might occasionally speak to the police to find out information, but will not pass messages between police and activists.
Legal Observing is an exciting way to play an important position in any demonstration or protest. However, this task also carries with it a great amount of responsibility. Authorized Observers are most often law students, lawyers, or other members of the authorized community because these individuals are usually familiar with the laws and can note any violations in legal terms. Nevertheless, anyone can be an effectively authorized observer with proper training.
Legal Observers are people who purposely position themselves close enough to demonstrations to be able to accurately watch and report the activities of participants and the regulation enforcement who interact with them. Just the presence of an explicitly identified Authorized Observer can deter police from violating the rights of protesters. Legal Observers should not act as part of the demonstration, however, should carefully record the actions of the police with the goal of later using that info as an objective account of the events. An Authorized Observer will essentially be the official eyes and ears of protesters, documenting every detail in a thorough and professional manner. Typically, they fill out this official form (LO summary) for any incident so that all the information is uniform and organized.
A Few Tips
Materials: A Legal Observers ought to always carry a pen and paper or the required forms for writing their observations, a camera or recording device for documenting situations, and an article that clearly identifies you as an Authorized Observer (hat, t-shirt). An especially effective Legal Observer will also become conversant in the area in order to reference street names and directions. Noting the locations of restrooms or where medical care and different essential provisions could be obtained is also essential. Know how to estimate distances and be able to recognize key players of the demonstration for communications purposes.
The Legality of Recording Cops: Videotaping police is one of the most powerful tools for protecting protesters. While police could assert that you must have consent to videotape them, the Oregon District Court suggests that videotaping police at a protest is protected under the First Amendment as a result of protests are matters of public interest.
Read more: What is Rational-legal Authority
Authorized observer team
Legal or human rights observers act as an impartial third party, observing police habits so as to keep police accountable for their actions. Authorized Legal Observers can write incident reports describing police violence and misbehavior and compile reviews after the event. As observers, they are more removed and thus better able to objectively and independently describe occasions.
It is vital that a Legal Observers Team has discussed and is clear about their function and mandate, particularly about whether their role is to monitor the behavior or police, of protesters of both or of others. A political philosophy to legal support will generally insist that the position of Authorized Observers is to watch the conduct of the police and that their function is not to police or to observe protester habits in any way.
It is arguably inappropriate for Legal Observers Teams who are committed to working in political help and solidarity with protesters to monitor and quasi-police the actions of protestors. The police and the apparatus of the state dedicate plenty of resources to the profiling, surveillance, and criminalisation of individuals and movements that work towards progressive social change. Authorized Observer Groups should aim to widen the political space to take protest action; by monitoring violence and harassment by police and other authorities and acting in a method that higher enables actions to take the actions they want to take (whether or not those actions are inside or beyond the legislation).
Legal Observers are needed to provide handouts on authorized data, provide protesters with phone numbers for a legal assist, track arrests and policing incidents and collate information for ongoing authorized support and or arrested solidarity.
Authorized Observers should also encourage protest individuals to write an appropriate legal help telephone number (this may be a mobile quantity activated by the Legal Support group for this particular protest or the number of a supportive criminal law firm or group authorized center). Even members who do not intend to get arrested or feel they will not get arrested should be encouraged to do this. Firstly, police responses may be unpredictable and arbitrary and it is not uncommon for people who had no intention of being arrested (even bystanders who were not a part of the protest) to be arrested. Secondly, if some contributors have the number written on their hand and others don’t it may cause police attention to be drawn to people with the quantity on their hand, on the assumption that they intend to engage in more militant or confrontational tactics.
Authorized Observers are vital to creating a feeling of safety, to allow individuals to make informed decisions about their actions and to observe police techniques and promote accountability.
It’s useful for Legal Observers to identify themselves as such by wearing signs or distinctive clothing such as fluoro security vests with ‘Legal Observer’ stenciled on the back. Make sure each Authorized Observer is equipped with a clipboard, relevant arrest tracking sheets, blank paper, and pens.
Make sure you have debriefing organized – the role may be very draining, as Legal Observer could also be witnesses to police violence, however, the position requires them to keep doing. In such conditions organizing a group debriefs to acknowledge how shocking and upsetting some of the things that were witnessed and observed may have been.
NLG Authorized Observer Program
The National Legal Professionals Guild Legal Observers program was established in 1968 in New York City in response to protests at Columbia University and city-wide antiwar and civil rights demonstrations. That same year, Guild college students organized for the defense of people swept up in mass arrests at the Democratic Nationwide Convention in Chicago.
The Authorized Legal Observers program is part of a comprehensive system of the legal assist by their Mass Defense Committee designed to enable folks to express their political views as fully as possible without unconstitutional disruption or interference by the police and with the fewest potential consequences from the felony justice system. In addition to Legal Observers, Guild attorneys often present authorized protection for protesters who’re arrested and bring civil litigation if wanted. Authorized Observers are typically, but not exclusively, regulation students, legal workers, and legal professionals who might or may not be licensed locally. Legal Observers are educated and directed by Guild attorneys, who typically have established attorney-client relationships with activist organizations, or are in litigation challenging police ways at mass assemblies. The presence of Authorized Observers could serve as a deterrent to unconstitutional behavior by legislation enforcement during a demonstration. To request Legal Observers for an upcoming occasion.
Get Trained as a Authorized Observer
A Know Your Rights Training for Trainers will be held by the Midnight Special Law Collective. The coaching teaches people the way to give the \”Know Your Rights\” training. They show tips on how to use brainstorms, function plays and facilitated discussion to teach individuals their rights and how the police trick you out of them. It additionally teaches a few of the fundamentals of giving coaching, together with presentation skills, facilitation techniques, and methods to act like a cop.
What are the Key Roles of a Legal Observers
- To monitor the policing of the protest, especially the use by police of controversial tactics similar to stop and search and kettling.
- To act as a deterrent to police misbehavior. Authorized observers are very noticeable in hi-visibility bibs, and remind individual police officers that their actions are being monitored.
- To reassure and inform protesters of their primary authorized rights. Bust playing cards give info on fundamental protest rights and contain the variety of a trusted lawyer for them to call if they’re arrested.
- To watch arrests. As a legal observer, your role is to document anything you witness throughout an arrest or obtain statements from different witnesses.
- To report assaults on protesters by police. Legal Observers ought to file assaults in as much element as attainable and should attempt to acquire statements from any witnesses