In 2015, we’ll be sending out weekly updates about the work we’re doing. The St. Louis Legal Collective formed spontaneously in response to the Mike Brown protests to provide accessible, democratic and accountable legal support to people fighting for social justice in St. Louis City and County. We currently have 15 core collective members and work with over 100 other movement volunteers. We are regular people (not lawyers) who refuse to allow the legal system to separate and silence us. To get involved email firstname.lastname@example.org.
As mass arrests have decreased the focus of our work has shifted from primarily providing protest support (24/7 hotline, tracking people through the system, dispatching lawyers for jail visits, coordinating with arrestees friends and family, posting bail, dealing with warrants, giving rides home from jail, etc.) to helping people fight their court cases. We’ve scaled back the jail support hotline hours to Mondays and Thursdays from 9:30am - 1pm - is this correct. However if you’re planning an action and you’d like to arrange jail support we’re still here for you! If possible please give us at least two days notice and email email@example.com or call the jail support hotline (314-862-2249) during our regular hours.
This week, 12 protesters facing felony charges had court appearances. Jail support volunteers continuing giving protesters’ rides to court and accompanying them for support. We’re also figuring out the best way to let the movement know when people’s court dates are so they can support them without compromising people’s privacy. We will be releasing a calendar of court dates along with some best practices to follow when going to court to support protesters.
Protesters Still in Jail
We were able to get 2 people out of jail this week who had been in for a couple of weeks. There are currently 13 protesters still in jail with bail amounts ranging from $20,000-$200,000, with the majority in the $20,000-$50,000 range. We've hired lawyers for the vast majority of these people, so their attorneys are working on getting their bail reduced to amounts that we will hopefully be able to pay. Some people have hired their own private attorneys who are also working on bond reductions.
We have also been focusing on creating individualized legal and political strategizes for particularly high profile cases, including Esrail Britton, who the police shot three times and are now charging with armed criminal action and holding on a $200,000 bail. We are also working closely with other arrestees who have been slandered by the police in the media to create plans to push back on police narratives and establish our own.
On Thursday, there was a Saul Williams and Suheir Hammad benefit show for the legal support fund. It raised over $4500 dollars! Thank you so much to everyone who came out to the event. This money will go a long way in ensuring that protesters have good quality legal representation.
Meeting for protesters who were arrested
The legal collective’s organizing working group spent a lot of time last week meeting with protesters who are facing felony charges about a meeting we are having on February 3 at 7pm. The meeting will be the first of a fledgling support group for arrested protesters and will also talk about how we can organize together to target the prison industrial complex, a system many arrestees have expressed interest in organizing around. A group of arrestees and jail support volunteers will be meeting next week to create an agenda for that meeting.
The police misconduct working group continued to collect documentation about police abuse experienced by arrested protesters.
Update on Paying for Bench Warrants
Up until this point, jail support has been able to use money from the legal support fund to not only pay protesters’ bonds for their protest-related charges, but also any municipal bench warrants that were also keeping them in jail after the initial bond was posted. Unfortunately, because we are running low on funds, we will no longer be able to pay off bench warrants. In extreme circumstances (for example, when someone is being held in a municipality for more than 5 days), we will try to obtain lawyer who can work on the municipal charge and hopefully get people out of jail. Over the past six months, we as jail support volunteers have seen over and over again how maddening, racist, and predatory the municipal courts are. It is our hope that one result of this movement will be the abolition of municipal courts so that, one day soon, there will be no more unjust bench warrants to pay. To join MORE’s campaign to abolish the municipal courts and bench warrants, check out their meeting on January 24th at 1pm at Visitation Church (4515 Evans Ave). More info here: https://www.facebook.com/events/783747138328821/?pnref=story