Statement in Support of Black Lives

NLG is the nation’s oldest and largest progressive bar association and the first in the US to be racially integrated. Our mission is to use law for the people, uniting lawyers, law students, legal workers, and jailhouse lawyers to function as an effective force in the service of the people by valuing human rights and the rights of ecosystems over property interests. 

Black lives are under attack, as they have been from the very start of our country, and we are once again seeing nationwide protests fighting back against the brutality of police and the murder of black people. Less than one year after the police killing of George Floyd by Derek Chauvin – which spurred the largest civil uprisings in the history of the United States – more protests have erupted in response to the police killings of Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo, and, most recently, Ma’Khia Bryant.

Although a jury convicted Chauvin of murder and manslaughter, we know that the legal system cannot save us from police violence. Abolition is the only way forward. The carceral system in which Chauvin was tried and convicted is the same carceral system that led to George Floyd’s death. It has always, and will always, be a violent system that disproportionately targets black and brown people and bodies.  Policing is erected on the bedrock of racial capitalism and is consequently incapable of reform. Calls for such reform (such as the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021, currently under consideration by the U.S. Senate) only further entrench the harm wrought by this intrinsically violent institution. Proposed reforms such as mandating body-worn cameras, implementing anti-racial bias or de-escalation training, or expanding community policing have proven ineffective in practice. Instead, we must listen to Black radical and abolitionist leaders who have proposed non-carceral systems of public safety and harm reparation to chart a path forward.

Harvard NLG supports all forms of protest and direct action for Black life, including both so-called “non-violent” actions and “not-non-violent” actions that directly engage with police violence.  To that end, the Harvard NLG chapter works with the NLG-Mass chapter to train legal observers, coordinate bail for arrested protesters through the Mass Bail Fund and provide legal support for protesters through the Mass Defense program. Our role as legal observers is to empower, support, and enable protestors to fight for the changes we need. Our NLG chapter also coordinates a Legal Hotline with NLG-Mass (617-431-6626) that protesters can call to report arrests, seek support following an arrest, or report police misconduct during protests.

Harvard Law NLG stands in support of Black radical and abolitionist leaders and organizations in the Boston area such as Families for Justice as Healing, Mass Power, Muslim Justice League, and Black and Pink Massachusetts. We believe that police and prison abolition is the only way to ensure the freedom of Black people. It is time to defund the police and fund programs that actually make communities safer and healthier, such as education, healthcare, childcare, mental health services, job training, infrastructure, addiction treatment, housing, and other community resources. It is time to Free Them All, and abolish the cages that hold our most vulnerable and beloved family members. It is time to imagine a society where police and prisons are inconceivable.

Harvard Law NLG still stands in solidarity with the Black Law Students Association at Harvard Law to demand that Harvard defunds its private police force (HUPD), match donations to Black and abolitionist organizations, stop punishing and targeting student protestors, especially Black student protestors, implement a critical race theory curriculum, create a diversity and inclusion office, hire and retain more black faculty and faculty of color on tenure track positions, and divest from the prison industrial complex that Harvard profits from. Harvard Law NLG supports the Harvard Alliance Against Campus Cops and calls on Harvard to re-distribute its private policing budget to community-based, anti-carceral models of public safety. Harvard Law NLG supports the Harvard Prison Divestment Campaign and demands that Harvard listen to its Black students and community members who say divest from prisons. Harvard Law NLG supports national mandatory amnesty and automatic expungement for every person arrested protesting for Black lives, as well as the people still incarcerated for protesting for Black lives in Ferguson, Missouri and countless other cities since Mike Brown’s killing in 2014. Harvard Law NLG demands that the Cambridge City Council defund its police department, which currently receives more funding than all other city-funded programs combined, and redirect that money towards affordable housing, health care, education, services for the homeless, and mental health services.

We also strongly condemn the violent tactics used by police to suppress protests for Black lives.  Police targeting of journalists, street medics, and legal observers mark an alarming escalation in efforts to erode protections for protesters.  Chemical weapons and supposedly “less lethal” projectiles should never be deployed against protesters and Harvard NLG calls for a complete ban on the use of these “crowd control” tactics.

Harvard Law NLG is a space for leftist organizing in an otherwise conservative campus. We believe that Black Lives Matter, that prisons and police must be abolished, and that lawyers should use our privilege and law degrees to practically support those efforts. We invite our fellow law students to stand with us and join the movement for Black Lives.