Legal empowerment is not a substitute for protest

Namati and the Legal Empowerment Network stand in solidarity with those courageously protesting across the US and around the world against police brutality and systemic racism.

Legal empowerment is a pathway to justice. When people facing injustice are able to know and use the law to defend their rights—imperfect as those laws are-—they can build from that experience to reshape the law altogether.

Jhody Polk, a Legal Empowerment Network member from the US, for example, supports jailhouse lawyers—incarcerated people who provide legal support to fellow incarcerated people—in Florida, New York, and elsewhere. Jhody served as a jailhouse lawyer herself when she was incarcerated for seven years.

Through the Legal Empowerment and Advocacy Hub (LEAH), Jhody and other jailhouse lawyers are drawing on their lived experience to envision and argue for a transformation in the American criminal justice system. As she explains it: “When people know the law and learn to use that law, they develop the confidence and commitment to participate in the shaping of just and peaceful institutions. Justice and civic duty are not taught, they’re inspired.”

But that work of legal empowerment is not a substitute for protest. It’s a complement.

We stand with the protestors. Some of us are providing legal support to protestors; many of us are protesting ourselves.

We urge you to join us. Protest if you can, though please use social distancing practices* when doing so. Donate to a group supporting the protests if you can, or donate to LEAH.

Namati means “bending the arc.” With leadership from those most impacted, we will bend the arc of history together.


*Given the risk of COVID-19 has not diminished, if you participate in protests please do take care to maintain 6 or more feet of distance from others; carry and use hand sanitizer liberally; wear a mask with ample facial coverage and wear it securely/consistently; and take particular precaution with mask-wearing when yelling or chanting slogans. 


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