The first time I was arrested, I had to cancel a meeting with one of my professors The police officers who arrested me had given me a beating between the arrest and the processing (in the van—this was 1985 during the Miner’s Strike, and police officers felt a fairly general permission to be fairly randomly violent to arrestees; they put the boot in while openly concocting the false stories they were going to tell about us). I was let out of Bow Street Station at 3 am, so that I could not get back to Herne Hill. In the morning I walked from the house of the friend I had woken at 4 to give me somewhere to sleep to campus, and informed my professor that I wasn’t going to be in a great condition to meet, and asked if we could postpone. He immediately asked what he could do to help, and asked whether he could testify at my trial (which he duly did, story here; great hilarity ensued). Some might call that coddling I guess, but it meant and still does mean a huge amount to me, and I always do the same (even if the charge is not related to politics and, to be clear, although I probably have some limit, I would support students who were arrested in causes I disagree with; something not at all unlikely to come up because by and large students don’t know my politics).
Knowing about this, a colleague (different college, different state) called yesterday to ask my advice. One of her students, an 18 year old African American woman, was arrested at an anti-Trump demonstration. This is in LA (I’ve also been beaten up by cops and arrested there! Thrill a minute, my life. Story here). Much of the charge sheet is illegible but it is a misdemeanor, and what I can make out is “Willfully and maliciously obstructing free movement or [illegible] for others public [illegible]’. The hearing is next week, and apparently neither the protest organizers nor the college have provided legal support. I’m trying to find my one lawyer acquaintance in LA with relevant experience (of the two lawyers who have worked for me, one is a judge, and the other is a labor lawyer and too fancy and famous for me to feel comfortable approaching him). In the meantime though—my colleague plans to attend the hearing with the student, and to record it and take notes. My advice is to ensure that 2 or 3 other students come along for support (it is enormously more tolerable to go through these experiences with support from friends than alone). But—should the student have a lawyer present? And if so, any suggestions of where to find one? (Again, its LA).