Arrest help sought

by Harry on December 9, 2016

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).



Douglas Weinfield 12.09.16 at 2:15 pm

Ask your fancy lawyer friend for a referral?


Roland Stephen 12.09.16 at 2:27 pm

Wow, I have one friend, I’ll ask. But when I lived in L.A. rule #1 was, don’t f*** with the LAPD … ever .. for any reason. I’m a white male, I was terrified of them.


Kiwanda 12.09.16 at 2:32 pm

Ask Ken White (aka Popehat). He does pro bono work, or organizes others to. Even lives in LA, I think.


rea 12.09.16 at 2:32 pm

Not licensed in California, but . . .

Your friend needs to check in advance whether recording the hearing will be permitted–frankly not likely. The friend getting held in contempt would probably be a bad development.


Mark Field 12.09.16 at 3:13 pm

The LA chapter of the National Lawyers Guild has been working to connect pro bono counsel to protestors. Link:


Sumana Harihareswara 12.09.16 at 3:14 pm

My suggestion: ask the judge and the fancy lawyer friend for referrals.

This set of suggestions from the MetaFilter wiki will also probably be useful.

Best wishes to your colleague and to the student.


rootlesscosmo 12.09.16 at 3:48 pm

Try the LA chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.


Charles Xu 12.09.16 at 4:00 pm

I live in the LA area and while I don’t know any personally, I believe some of my friends involved in the UCLA Undercommons have National Lawyers Guild contacts. The local NLG organization could also be worth reaching out to directly–the number I was given is (310) 313-3700. They often deploy what are essentially crack teams of legal “first responders” to the larger anti-Trump rallies.


Sebastian H 12.09.16 at 4:11 pm

Ugh. Definitely contact Ken White at Popehat. He focuses on free speech issues and could almost certainly give a referral.


Displaced Person 12.09.16 at 4:19 pm

Call Henry Willis at ( 323) 655-4700


rea 12.09.16 at 4:50 pm

I might suggest asking Sebastian H for a referral–he’s Southern California lawyer, although I don’t think he does criminal defense work.


Sebastian H 12.09.16 at 5:15 pm

Rea, I’m actually looking a bit myself but my contacts in LA are all in the employment area or the family law area. My understanding is that dealing with the LAPD is a giant pain in the ass, and that you want someone who does it regularly.


Anarcissie 12.09.16 at 5:29 pm

People who are going to be politically active in what now seems to be called the Resistance should try to form more or less permanent groups and connections to provide help to those who are going to be arrested and imprisoned.* We can learn from the Civil Rights and anti-war movements. You need not just lawyers but support people on both ends of the legal process.

*Note that participating in a completely legal, non-violent demonstration may be defined as ‘terrorism’.


Joshua Holmes 12.09.16 at 5:35 pm

Call the local chapter of the ACLU, ask for assistance and referrals.


L2P 12.09.16 at 6:17 pm

If this is in LA County, call the public defender ((213) 974-2811).

That office often handles these sorts of cases. Usually they can get these cited out at a minimum.


Mark Field 12.09.16 at 7:02 pm

A friend of mine offered another suggestion: LA Police Watch (213) 387-3325


ZM 12.09.16 at 10:31 pm

While I don’t think it’s the best idea to protest specifically about Donald Trump being elected as President, since he hasn’t done anything illegal or terrible and isn’t even inaugurated as President at this stage, and I think that it would be better for protests to focus on things like supporting racial and religious tolerance and harmony, in 2015 at a conference I talked to a woman who had done a legal tool kit for environmental protests in Australia, and similar things should be available in the USA, eg:

Also I would suggest speaking to the head officer in the police station of the officer who made the charge and discuss what happened with them, and also contacting the relevant body to make a complaint against the officer and submit the complaint before the court case.


George de Verges 12.09.16 at 11:55 pm

I haven’t appeared at an arrangement in over 30 years (not long enough ago for me, thanks) but as a lawyer I will say that the critical thing is to. Get. A. Lawyer. Now. I have never practiced on the West Coast, much less in LA, but there is someone (Legal Aid and ACLU are excellent suggestions) willing to take this, and your lawyer friends should be able to provide suggestions and names…ask them…it is part of the obligation of a lawyer to do this sort of thing.

The defendant should NOT speak to anyone about the charges, or anything else, without counsel present (and competent counsel will instruct the defendant not to speak).

As an aside, the criminal courts are a world far more horrible than can be imagined unless you have been there, and sweet reason (and reasonableness) is not necessary or appropriate. There is a reason why attorneys who advertise as criminal defense attorneys have nicknames like “The Hammer.”

I thought your essay would end with a request for funds. So…I am offering to contribute toward the cost of the representation. And I suggest the other readers of CT consider this as well. The fine minds who write and read this blog should be able to find a way.

Merry Christmas, y’all.


J-D 12.10.16 at 1:03 am


While I don’t think it’s the best idea to protest specifically about Donald Trump being elected as President, since he hasn’t done anything illegal or terrible

Wow. Have you been paying attention?


ZM 12.10.16 at 3:38 am


Yes I have. I commented negatively during the Primaries and Election about several of the policies Trump was presenting, on race and religion and immigration. However Trump has won the election, and I don’t think it’s a good idea to stage protests regarding who wins elections. Even if the idea was that there was possibly some irregularity with the election, the proper thing is to investigate it and take it to court if need be. Like Obama has called for an investigation into the hacking of emails which he is saying was done by Russia. It would be sort of interesting to investigate the role played by global clandestine intelligence agencies in elections generally, I can’t see why the KGB is likely to excercise more influence over elections than the CIA myself. But anyhow, I think protests are better staged over particular issues, not over who wins the election.


J-D 12.10.16 at 4:36 am


Perhaps I wasn’t sufficiently clear in my comment.

You wrote that Donald Trump hasn’t done anything illegal or terrible. Now you tell me that you have been paying attention. When you were paying attention, did you not notice anything Donald Trump might have done that might have been illegal and/or terrible? Nothing at all?


ZM 12.10.16 at 7:45 am

He isn’t even inaugurated as President yet, all he has done is choose people for offices.


JimV 12.10.16 at 3:44 pm

I think JD is referring to the facts that he was cited and fined for violating racial discrimination laws by refusing to rent apartments to black applicants, has sexually/physically harassed several women, lied at the drop of a hat as proved by recorded statements, etc. If we are to ignore all that due to the sanctifying effect of an election, his transition staff is preparing questionnaires to find and weed out all supporters of global warming research and amelioration policies in the Departments of Energy and State. His supporters in the USA Congress are firming up their plans to repeal Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) and privatize Social Security and Medicare. Are we not allowed to protest such policies?

(I appreciate the basic civility of your approach, ZM, but I think the protesters are quite justified.)


William Berry 12.10.16 at 4:38 pm



There has been a neo-fascist coup in the U.S. How could it ever be too soon for people who care about that to start protesting?

If you don’t know or care enough about our politics to understand this, why bother having an opinion on the subject?


JanieM 12.10.16 at 5:10 pm

We could spend all day adding to JimV’s list and a lifetime cataloguing the blatant lies, but just for one more easily google-able item:

Fraud on a grand scale.


Theophylact 12.10.16 at 5:39 pm

@ William Berry: Assisted considerably by a foreign power that doesn’t have the best interests of the US in mind:

WASHINGTON — American intelligence agencies have concluded with “high confidence” that Russia acted covertly in the latter stages of the presidential campaign to harm Hillary Clinton’s chances and promote Donald J. Trump, according to senior administration officials.

They based that conclusion, in part, on another finding — which they say was also reached with high confidence — that the Russians hacked the Republican National Committee’s computer systems in addition to their attacks on Democratic organizations, but did not release whatever information they gleaned from the Republican networks.

In the months before the election, it was largely documents from Democratic Party systems that were leaked to the public. Intelligence agencies have concluded that the Russians gave the Democrats’ documents to WikiLeaks.

Republicans have a different explanation for why no documents from their networks were ever released. Over the past several months, officials from the Republican committee have consistently said that their networks were not compromised, asserting that only the accounts of individual Republicans were attacked. On Friday, a senior committee official said he had no comment.


harry b 12.10.16 at 6:34 pm

First, thanks so much everyone. My colleague is in touch with a lawyer who contacted me after a friend told her about the CT post — I’ll let you know how things move along as I’m allowed to. It really is great to know, when I get a call like that, that CTers will help. Its just what I expected, but its still fantastic. Thanks all of you.

On protesting Trump before he has been inaugurated. A cautious young relative of mine told me on the day after the election that she was going along to a protest, even though she has roughly ZM’s view of this, and would leave if she thought it wasn’t worth doing. She discovered that the march had been routed through an entirely immigrant, entirely poor, neighbourhood, and the main chants were about telling the residents how welcome they are. Not a bad use of time right now, I’d say. There’ll no doubt be plenty of opportunities to do more…


Stephen 12.10.16 at 7:41 pm

William Berry@24: you say “There has been a neo-fascist coup in the U.S.”

For all I know, you may really believe that. But if you are right, then a rather obvious piece of advice is: those who aspire to be as Anarcassie@13 says, “People who are going to be politically active in what now seems to be called the Resistance”, should surely to God not display their intentions and contacts on-line where the neo-fascists can very easily pick then up, trace them, and target them for neo-fascist persecutory measures. Have a little conspiratorial common sense.

Unless, of course, by “neo-fascist” you mean people who are really not even remotely like the actual, historical fascists.


William Berry 12.10.16 at 8:50 pm


Well, I did say “neo-fascist”, not “fascist” or, for that matter, “neo-nazi”.

I am not saying they have achieved everything they want in terms of power and control. Fortunately, our political institutions, doddering and corrupt as they are, still have the capacity for some degree of resistance, if for no other reason than that they are so unwieldy and refractory (I would ordinarily complain about that; not now).

Yes, we (and by “we” I mean “the resistance”) might have to worry about keeping a low profile at some point in the future. Right now is the time to stand up and be counted.


William Berry 12.10.16 at 8:54 pm

Oh, and I would guess that most folks would think that the Trump transition team’s request for a list of names of those in the Department of Energy who were involved in the formulation of policy concerning global warming was scarily fascistic.

But I’m guessing you wouldn’t think that.


engels 12.10.16 at 9:33 pm

all he has done is choose people for offices

That and bring explicit racism and misogyny into the media mainstream, embolden a wave of attacks on muslims, immigrants and other vulnerable groups, many explicitly done in his name, and made millions of people feel understandably unsafe in their own country.


ZM 12.10.16 at 9:59 pm


I think it’s better to protest the issues rather than the election of Donald Trump. In particular the racism and religious freedom issues I think would be much better served by people protesting on these issues rather than conflating them with Donald Trump being elected and any other of his policies people don’t agree with.

Bill Clinton faced similar allegations of sexual harassment during his Presidency, without people on the left of politics protesting for his removal from office. I think this issue would be better served by campaigns against sexual harassment.

And in terms of climate change, since Trump is still producer or something of The Apprentice, now Arnold Scwarzenneger is the host, maybe he can try convincing Trump to try his climate friendly diet. This would promote a climate friendly diet all around America like Jimmy Carter wearing sweaters in the energy crisis.


J-D 12.11.16 at 2:59 am


I think it’s better to protest the issues

If you pay attention, you might discover that people are doing that.

And in terms of climate change, since Trump is still producer or something of The Apprentice, now Arnold Scwarzenneger is the host, maybe he can try convincing Trump to try his climate friendly diet.

Please do contact Arnold Schwarzennegger with your suggestion and let us know what kind of response you get.


ZM 12.11.16 at 3:08 am

Scratch the bit about The Apprentice, apparently that was fake news


Stephen 12.11.16 at 1:44 pm

@William Berry: so nobody is actually part of a heroic Resistance against the fascist oppressors, then? Delighted you agree with me.

But you say they’re neo-fascist: unusual use of “neo”, meaning apparently “not”. And they came to power by a coup, which apparently means a constitutionally valid democratic election with no violence involved, nobody arrested, no military on the streets, no mobs occupying the government buildings. Look, I don’t like Trump at all either, but keep a sense of proportion.

As for Trump’s people asking who supported the last government’s policy: if people on the list are thrown into jail, tortured, exiled, killed, then I would agree that is fascistic.


William Berry 12.11.16 at 5:42 pm


Given that you have never presented here as anything other than a milquetoast centrist, I am not surprised to learn that you are a “stop degrading the meanings of our precious wordses” type linguistic essentialist prescriptivist as well.

I generally skip your comments and only responded above because you addressed me specifically. Nothing you have ever said has struck me as interesting, and doesn’t now.

Apologize to Harry for my contribution to the derail of the thread.


Dr. Hilarius 12.11.16 at 6:28 pm

If taking the names of Energy Dept. staff who have attended conferences on climate change has a benign explanation I’d like to hear it. Climate change has been made into a partisan issue but it isn’t one.

Being informed about climate change is not supporting “the last government’s policy” it’s about dealing with a major world problem directly connected to energy sources and use. Trying to describe it as if it’s some arbitrary policy is nonsense.


ZM 12.11.16 at 10:34 pm

Dr Hilarius,

To be honest, while I am pretty much a Labor or Greens voter, I think the Left has really mucked up on climate change by making it a left wing issue.

In Australia there are a couple of prominent right wing figures who talk about climate change, notably John Hewson and I think Ian Dunlop is right wing since he is from a oil company background although I could be wrong. But in general the right wing politicians are not engaging with climate change as much as they could despite the importance of the issue.

In America the court cases about it use the Public Trust Doctrine which is in the Takings Clause in the USA Constitution, so it’s not like it’s a radical left wing legal reform or anything, not only is it in the Constitution but it goes back to the early times of law in Western Civilisation in Rome.

From an urban planning perspective the responses to climate change aren’t necessarily left wing either, it’s stuff like moving to renewable energy, less car use and more active transport and mass transit, more urban greening more sustainable food systems etc.

Even the more “radical” sounding responses, like decreasing consumption and making it more sustainable, and changing diets to be more climate friendly, are more Little House On The Prairie than Paris Commune.


J-D 12.12.16 at 12:02 am


To be honest, while I am pretty much a Labor or Greens voter, I think the Left has really mucked up on climate change by making it a left wing issue.

In Australia there are a couple of prominent right wing figures who talk about climate change, notably John Hewson and I think Ian Dunlop is right wing since he is from a oil company background although I could be wrong. But in general the right wing politicians are not engaging with climate change as much as they could despite the importance of the issue.

So right-wing politicians have not taken up the issue, and this is the fault of the left wing.

Obviously this means that what the left wing should do if they want to advance an issue is roll over and play dead! then there is a chance that right-wing politicians will not perceive it as a left-wing issue and maybe at some point they will take it up.

What fantastic strategic advice! (bearing in mind that the word ‘fantastic’ has more than one meaning).


Stephen 12.12.16 at 12:32 pm

@William Berry: think a little, and you will perceive there is a total contradiction between “I generally skip your comments” and “you never present as anything but a centrist”.

If you hadn’t been self-righteously skipping you would have noticed that I have posted about my preference for Bernie Sanders. Possibly from your point of view he is a centrist also.

I’m not an essentialist prescriptivist, I just have some knowledge of the history of coups and fascism. I don’t find your attempts to present yourself as a heroic anti-fascist entertaining.


Harry 12.12.16 at 1:17 pm

OK, that’s enough on arguing about Trump. Its strictly off-topic. I’m not going to close down the thread (partly because I don’t know how), but won’t approve comments that deviate from the main topic of the OP.


Sumana Harihareswara 12.12.16 at 4:28 pm

Harry, when you testify at these trials, how are you generally treated? Does your status as a professor seem to transfer into credibility for you and your attestations to the student’s character? Do you tend to prepare a statement and read it aloud, or are you answering questions posed to you? I’m curious and would welcome more details.


Henry (not the famous one) 12.13.16 at 12:19 am

@ Displaced Person: thanks for the mention, but the better route is to call the National Lawyers Guild’s LA Chapter’s office: (310) 313-3700 (the same number that Charles Xu gave out) or email the Guild at


ZM 12.14.16 at 6:37 am

While I don’t think it’s really relevant to this arrest Harry has posted about, I got an email crowd funding for a case in Australia where the former leader of The Greens, Bob Brown, is mounting a High Court challenge to Tasmanian harsh anti-protesting laws. I don’t live in Tasmania, but Victoria introduced harsher laws against protesting, I think following the Occupy protests. I have been on peaceful protests since then, and chatted to a few police about the laws, one supported the newer laws and wasn’t that nice, but another one said the Police Union had concerns about the enforcement of the newer laws.

“Bob’s appeal against Tasmania’s anti-protest laws, the most important High Court case of its kind in recent history, has been referred to the full bench of seven High Court judges.

After some legal skirmishing from the Tasmanian government, unsuccessfully trying to derail the case, this issue will be decided by the highest court in the land.

While this is great news, it carries with it a huge financial and personal burden for Bob Brown and Jessica Hoyt, who are jointly taking this action.

They are fighting this case for all of us, to defend Australians’ right to peaceful protest and to ensure we are all free to take a stand against issues like:

– destruction of native forests
– construction of the Adani coal mine
– coal seam gas fracking poisoning our farmlands
– barbaric treatment of refugees by our government

If the case goes against them, they will face massive costs, upwards of $250,000.”

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