The System Is Broken: Legal Aid Attorneys Walk Out and Die In

The System Is Broken: Legal Aid Attorneys Walk Out and Die In

Citing their role as experts "in the belly of the beast,” hundreds of New York public defenders walked off their jobs and staged a die-in to protest racial inequality in a so-called justice system that has repeatedly failed many of their clients and, most recently, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, who was one of their clients. The demonstration, organized by the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys, was part of #ThisStopsToday's 11 Days of Action, with a similar march in Philadelphia. The New York event brought over 200 attorneys streaming out of Brooklyn's criminal court building  chanting “I can’t breathe” and holding "Black Lives Matter" signs. Marchers said inequities and inherent conflicts of interest that work against their often black and brown clients are "something that we've been battling for decades."

Attorneys cited  "countless people being assaulted by police officers who get off scot-free” and "people of color (doing) jail time for offenses like hopping turnstiles while officers who kill unarmed men do not even see the inside of central bookings.” They held the  die-in even as the city was reportedly negotiating to settle a multi-million dollar lawsuit brought by Garner's family, and as the head of the NYPD union was making vague threats against "our enemies" - evidently including Mayor de Blasio - who think changes need to be made to New York's police department. After lying in the street, marchers eventually wound back to the courthouse, where they chanted “I can’t breathe” 11 times, the number of times Garner pleaded with the cops holding him. The event was originally planned for inside the courthouse, to send the message the system needs to be reformed from the inside out, but court officials barred it. So much for justice being blind,  demonstrators noted: “It says a lot about the system and whose side (it's) on...We are experts on the system, and we know the system is broken."

Attorneys at Philadelphia die-in

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