How can I support my friends or affinity group during the RNC protests?
A legal support person is an important part of the RNC demonstrations. While there will be a centralized legal support team, the more individuals and affinity groups can take care of their own legal support, the more effective the centralized legal team will be. For example, a legal support person can call the legal team with the information for 10 people in their affinity group who got arrested; this is way more efficient than 10 different people all calling in. This is a great role for people who can’t (or don’t want to) risk arrest during the protests. The legal system is designed to break us down and dehumanize us. Having a legal support person is just one more step toward resisting the criminal “justice” system that is used to oppress and silence us all.
There are a lot of roles the legal support person can fill; below are some examples. Don’t feel as if you’re disqualified if you can’t do them all. Just let your friends/affinity group know your limits so they can plan ahead – maybe someone else can help be the legal support person with you.
What should I do before the action?
- Everyone should fill out an Arrestee Support Form – even if they’re not planning on getting arrested;
- Collect the support forms, keep them safe and secure, away from the action. The legal support person should not get arrested;Before the action, arrange a local number that accepts collect calls from jail where you can be reached and that you will be able to answer at all times during the actions and while people are in jail. This number should also have call-waiting so people can get through at all times. All members of your affinity group should memorize this number and write it on their body and/or their clothing with a permanent marker before the action;
- Be aware of any plans for solidarity actions while in jail, or if anyone will need to get out ASAP, and keep in mind the different risk levels of folks in your group (especially if anyone is trans, queer, a person of color, a non-citizen, a minor, on probation, has an outstanding warrant or previous arrest record, etc.); and
- Have access to people’s IDs, bail money (or sources of bail money – friends, parents, etc.), prescriptions, and other documents and materials as needed.
What should I do while my friends are in jail?
- When your friends call, remind them that phones may be tapped (the jail’s and/or yours). Don’t discuss the specific circumstances of your friends’ arrests (though you can say what the charges are);
- Get (and keep track of) arrested peoples’ booking numbers, arrest numbers, and upcoming court dates;
- Check and see if anyone needs any additional support: For instance, if they’ve been brutalized, denied medical attention, had their dietary needs ignored or refused, have been placed in solitary, have been harassed, have not been grouped with folks of their preferred gender, etc.;
- Call the Coldsnap Legal Collective jail support hotline (651.356.8635) and let them know your friends have been arrested. Give the legal office the necessary info from the support forms and the above info regarding additional support needed;
- Contact the rest of your affinity group and any others who the arrested folks want informed of the situation. Update those people regularly, even if nothing has changed;
- Take care of logistics for your friends: Call their bosses, rescue their bikes, feed their cats, etc.;
- Call the jail to find out where they are in the process. Be polite but firm with the people at the jail. Don’t talk about the specifics of your friends’ cases;
- Try to get messages from the outside world to your arrested friends. This is a HUGE morale booster; and
- Start a call-in or write-in campaign. Flood the jail with phone calls, especially if folks have needs that aren’t being met. Call the mayor, the police chief, and other representatives of the state, or write a letter to the editor denouncing police harassment, misconduct, unlawful arrests, and/or the attempt to oppress and silence people. You may also want to organize other actions such as staging protests or rallies outside of the jail.
What should I do once people start getting out of jail?
- Be available until everyone in your affinity group is out of jail;
- Go to the jail, be there when your friends get out, and have a ride home for them;
- Have food, water, clean clothes, music, and whatever else you can think of to emotionally support them after their experience;
- If they were brutalized by the cops or the jail guards, take photos of the bruises and wounds (show broad and detailed views, using rulers, coins, or other items of standard sizes to show scale), take them to a hospital or doctor you trust, make sure they’re examined and that police brutality is written in their medical records, and make sure they take a copy of their medical records when they leave. Preserve any evidence (e.g., bloody clothes) with the pictures and documentation and keep them in a safe space until you can get the originals to the legal team. (Keep copies of all photos and documents in a safe place, just in case.);
- Make sure to record their arrest and case information. If they have a citation, photocopy it. Take note of upcoming court dates. Make sure the legal teams gets all this info;
- Remind people about their upcoming court dates and support them through the court process; and
- If they have court dates, organize your friends and the community and fill the courtroom to show support.