Beyond the Green Hat: Issues Around Legal Support for the RNC 2016

Course Description

The issues discussed in this workshop go beyond the typical concerns surrounding legal support at mass demonstrations, such as office set-up, Legal Observing and jail support, by probing ways the Guild can be more involved in the social change movements it supports.

For more than a decade, the police and public officials have used a playbook of tactics with the clear aim of stifling and suppressing dissent. As we approach the RNC 2016 in Cleveland, it’s important to review and assess the pattern of tactics used so that activists and the legal community can better prepare to fight back.

Some of the tactics used by police and public officials include: (a) heavy surveillance and infiltration of activist groups, (b) entrapment and malicious prosecution, (c) controlling the media narrative to undermine activists, and (d) the passage of municipal anti-protest ordinances used to stifle dissent and arrest activists.

The workshop will be structured as a presentation with Q&A, including a panel of legal workers and attorneys experienced in mass mobilization legal support.

Presenters will speak about the historical practices of police across the country, the reaction to protests by Cleveland police in particular, some of the public policies being put in place, and how to address repressive police tactics expected this summer during the RNC. Presenters will also discuss how to reclaim the media narrative, and how to push back against draconian laws adopted to stifle dissent in Cleveland, among other issues.

Speaker Bios

Kris Hermes is an activist and former National Lawyers Guild (NLG) Mass Defense Coordinator who has worked for nearly thirty years on social justice issues. Organizing with ACT UP Philadelphia in the late 1990s spurred his interest in legal support work and led to his co-founding and years-long involvement with R2K Legal. Since 2000, Hermes has been an active, award-winning legal worker-member of the NLG and has been a part of numerous law collectives and legal support efforts over the years.

King Downing, NLG Mass Defense Director

Rev. Waltrina Middleton is the founder and organizer of Cleveland Action, a social justice based organization that advocates in solidarity with marginalized communities and uses its platform to raise awareness on racialized cultures of violence, including police brutality. The organization was formed in response to the killing of 12-year old Tamir Rice by Cleveland police in 2014 and a host of racialized murders by police in the city of Cleveland and nation. The organization supports legal and bail efforts in partnership with local and national organizations; hosts training and educational forums on civil disobedience and provides safe spaces and resources as needed in solidarity with organizers and activists. Middleton is among a network of Movement for Black Lives organizers which hosted its first annual gathering the summer of 2015 in Cleveland. Middleton is engaged in human rights advocacy domestically and abroad as she also partners with efforts to dismantle systems of apartheid in Israeli occupied Palestine. She is an ordained minister, poet, and social critic.

Jocelyn Rosnick has been an active member of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) since 2009 when she founded a student chapter of the NLG at Case Western Reserve University School of Law. During this time, she helped coordinate a legal support network for Occupy Cleveland which included providing legal observer training and arranging pro bono legal defense for demonstrators. Since 2012, Jocelyn has worked to revitalize the Ohio Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild which includes member recruitment, networking, scheduling events, and managing all social media. Jocelyn co-organized all aspects of the 2013 and 2016 Mideast Regional Conferences held in Cleveland, Ohio and is currently co-organizing RNC 2016 preparations.

Jocelyn received her juris doctor from Case Western Reserve University School of law in 2012 and a bachelor of arts in Sociology with an emphasis on social inequality from West Virginia University in 2009. Jocelyn is a recipient of the 2011 Equal Justice Works Summer Corps Standout award for her work on removing housing barriers for low-income individuals re-entering society from the criminal justice system. In 2013, Jocelyn co-authored report, The Outskirts of Hope which detailed blatantly illegal debtors’ prison practices across Ohio. Jocelyn is on staff at the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio.