Lawyers, law students and legal workers will assemble outside Courts in cities across the U.S at 1pm (ET) today, February 17th, in a strike action called by the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) as part of the #F17 General Strike against the Trump administration. As NLG President Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan states:
“We are facing unprecedented attacks on our most fundamental human rights and are seeing the unfolding of authoritarianism before our eyes. The legal community has no choice but to show up, to defend our communities and to fight back by holding our institutions accountable.”
The Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers stands in solidarity with this strike action and support the vital resistance of our comrades in the U.S.
In the space of only four weeks since Donald Trump took office, his regime has issued a series of executive orders that constitute calculated attacks on the rights of muslims, women, people of colour, LBGTQ folk, indigenous communities, the environment and working people.
When the media attempts to hold him to account, Trump dismisses truth as “alternative facts”. When recent legal challenges succeeded in blocking his ‘Muslim ban’, the President dismissed the role of the judiciary via Twitter, saying:
“The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!”
Such comments, along with an authoritarian taste for executive orders, reveal the Trump administration's utter disregard for the rule of law and democratic processes. In this context, we believe the legal community has an important role to play in the necessary fightback.
- By acting as an institutional check on executive power. Taking resistance through the courts, as in the case of challenges to the ‘Muslim ban’. Upholding constitutionally enshrined human rights and civil liberties – of due process, non-discrimination, protections against arbitrary detention and deportation, defending activists and whistleblowers.
- By showing up. The past month has seen an extraordinary mobilisation of activists taking direct action on the streets, in airports, university campuses and schools across the U.S. The pro bono lawyers who showed up to airports in the immediate aftermath of the ‘Muslim ban’ – working around the clock to file habeas corpus petitions and intervene in coercive attempts to get people to sign away their rights – show how vital direct legal action on the ground is.
- By refusing to legitimise. As socialist lawyers we recognise how the legal system can function to confer legitimacy on policies – which is to say ideologies – both instrumentally and rhetorically. We note the danger of any attempt to adopt this ‘business as usual’ approach to Trump’s white supremacist nationalistic agenda. Instead of conferring legitimacy, the legal community must lend our understanding of, and proximity to, the institutions of state power to intervene in its present violence.
As our comrades in the U.S are demonstrating today, the legal community can strike back against the far right and lend its power to resistance. Solidarity to #LawStrikesBack from across the Atlantic.