The legal professionals whose careers are premised on working within the system are now taking aim at the system itself, throwing their weight behind a call for a strike on Friday, February 17 to oppose the Trump administration.
“Lawyers, legal workers, law students, paralegals, court interpreters, investigators, social service advocates and others who work in the courts will gather in front of courthouses across the country in coordination with the nationwide #GeneralStrike planned for the same day,” reads a statement from the National Lawyers Guild. “This is an opportunity for the legal community to express our solidarity with the growing movements against the new regime and its white supremacist agenda.”
Legal communities are planning walkouts and rallies in a dozen cities, from Boston to Tucson to Los Angeles. Thirty-five organizations have added their endorsement, among Law for Black Lives and the Water Protector Legal Collective, which is providing legal support for Indigenous resistance at Standing Rock. The Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW 2325 has also lent its support to the strike, as has the LGBTQ prison abolition organization Black and Pink.
“The legal community has a unique role to play in supporting the mass resistance to Trump’s toxic agenda,” Dima Khalidi, the director of Palestine Legal, told AlterNet. “Palestine Legal is committed to protecting the right to engage in such resistance, and we’re committed to doing so with our legal colleagues who understand what’s at stake, and the importance of letting the movements that have been building for years lead the way.”
Pooja Gehi is the executive director of the National Lawyers Guild, which put out the call for the broader legal community to participate in the strike. She told AlterNet that now is an important time to refuse to participate in “normalizing and legitimizing” the Trump regime.
“I think that in this moment, it is really important for us to use all of the tools of resistance that we have,” said Gehi. “Striking is one important way to say we are not participating in our normal activities, this is not the world we want to live in, this is not okay. The power of the people has been moving and transformative already in the past three weeks, with protests and solidarity all over the world and country.”
The “law strikes back” action is part of a call issued by Strike4Democracy, for a National Day of Action to Push Back Against Assaults on Democratic Principles. Meanwhile, a coalition of feminist scholars and activists have declared March 8 an International Strike Against Male Violence and in Defense of Reproductive Rights. The group behind the women’s march signaled its official endorsement of the March 8 general strike on Wednesday by releasing a tweet that states, “In the spirit of women and their allies coming together for love and liberation, we offer A Day Without A Woman.”
Meanwhile, Movimiento Cosecha, or Harvest Movement, is planning an immigrant strike on May 1, also known as May Day or International Workers’ Day. The slated action is part of their larger effort to build toward a one-week strike of five to eight million workers to demand respect and dignity for all undocumented people living in the United States.
Friday’s nationwide protests and walkouts are part of a groundswell of mobilizations against Donald Trump and his policies, as people have flooded streets and airports in stunning numbers to defend their communities.
“We’re sponsoring and participating in Friday’s action because lawyers, like everyone else, need to be counted upon to stand up to any and all illegal actions of this and future presidencies,” Vince Warren, the executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, told AlterNet. “There is a clear tendency for this administration to govern more in defiance of the law than in accordance with it. Millions of people are impacted by ill-considered and sometimes unlawful executive orders, and lawyers and the judiciary will be key to ensuring that people are treated fairly and that the president is not above the law.”
Joey Mogul, a partner at the People’s Law Office, told AlterNet, “We are horrified to see how many human rights are under attack by the current administration, and we feel it’s necessary to come together as lawyers and legal workers to resist and show support for communities on the ground who are suffering. We are desperately and deeply disturbed by the Muslim ban, the crackdown on immigrants, the fact that there is a new attorney general who has shown disregard for constitutional rights and an administration calling for more ‘law and order’ that would protect police officers while sacrificing the rights of protesters.”
Since Trump assumed office, legal workers have taken to the streets to observe protests and flocked to airports to offer free counsel to people impacted by an executive order targeting Muslim travelers. Large-scale protests and a tangle of lawsuits have hampered its implementation from the start. Gehi emphasized, “I feel that legal organizations have stepped up in this moment to say that they are resisting.”
Some say coordinated action is essential because much of the legal community is complicit in the federal government’s abuses.
Mik Kinkead, the director of the Prisoner Justice Project at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, told AlterNet his organization is participating in the February 17 action “because so much of the harm and oppression our communities face is perpetrated and held by lawyers, judges and lawmakers.”
“We know that the liberation of trans, gender non-conforming and intersex people, particularly those of us who are low income and/or of color will never come from these systems,” Kinkead continued. “Yet as long as legal systems are one of the many helpful tools we use for reprieve, to ease pain, to amplify our voices, then we must also participate in any and all actions that hold individuals with power in these legal systems accountable. As a legal services organization, we must constantly come back to our membership and be held accountable, just as we are calling on all individuals who are involved in these legal systems to do at Friday’s action.”