How to support your friends who have been arrested
Before the action
- Requests for a legal hotline, legal observers and on call lawyers, or other demonstrations related legal needs, should be made by filling out the NLG Demonstrations Committee form.
- Everyone risking arrest should fill out an arrestee support form
- Have a legal support person collect the support forms, keep them safe and secure, away from the action. The legal support person should not get arrested
- Participants should share as much of their info as they’re comfortable giving – full legal name, arrest history (not just activism related), outstanding warrants, responsibilities they need covered if arrested, emergency contacts, etc.
- Share relevant medical info: allergies, trick knees, prescription meds, and their doctor’s name and phone #.
- If your friends are likely to face serious charges that might prevent them from being released, have sources of bail/bond lined up (friends, parents, etc.)
While your friends are in custody
- Call the legal hotline – 415-285-1011 if the NLG hotline has been activated, or the hotline number that your group has set up for the action – and let them know your friends have been arrested. Give the legal office the info from the support form.
- Don’t discuss the specific circumstances of your friends’ arrest – you can say what the charges are.
- Contact the rest of your affinity group and others the arrested folks want informed of the situation. Update those people regularly, even if nothing’s changed.
- Call the jail to find out where they are in the process. Be polite, but firm (businesslike) 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.
- Take care of logistics for your friends – call their boss, rescue their bike, feed their cat, water their plants, etc.
- Gather OR information (Own Recognizance) – If your friend is booked and held in San Francisco, there is a special project to help people be released on their own recognizance (meaning without paying bail/bond). To do this, they must ensure that the person is a) not a danger to society and b) likely to show up for their court date. You can help demonstrate that a person is likely to attend their court date by showing that they have strong ties to the community. Collecting references of people who can vouch for their responsibility and character (i.e. bosses, teachers, family members) as well as other strong commitments in the area (mortgages, involvement in community groups, employment). Note: don’t make your friend’s life worse by spilling the beans about their arrest to folks who might make trouble for them (i.e. mean bosses, vindictive parents)
- If they’re in for a long time, start a call-in or write-in campaign. Call the mayor, the police chief, and other government pawns, or write a letter to the editor denouncing police harassment, misconduct, unlawful arrests, and/or the attempt to oppress and silence people.
Once people start getting out of jail
- Go to the jail and 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
- Make sure they fill out an outtake form [PDF | XLS]. 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
- Help them get to one of the arrestees meetings after the action: (TBD)
- Remind people about their upcoming court dates by – support them through the court process
- If they have court dates, organize your friends and fill the courtroom to show support
Small affinity group actions are catalysts for major social change. From ACT-UP in the 80’s making AIDS care and awareness a national priority to Food Not Bombs visibly serving free food to hungry people, small actions make a big difference.
The more effective we are the more we risk arrest and other types of oppression. 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, the corrupt government it props up, and the corporate rulers who use this system to oppress and silence us all.