Open Letter Condemning the Arrest of Legal Observers on August 28, 2020


The right to observe and document law enforcement is enshrined in our Constitution. It serves as a safeguard on free speech, the right to protest, and freedom from state tyranny. We join together to condemn the arrests of legal observers performing their duties to witness and record police actions against demonstrators. 

Serving as non-participants who document police conduct towards activists, including arrests, National Lawyers Guild (NLG) volunteer legal observers protect these basic first amendment principles. These lawyers, law students, and civic-minded individuals are trained to neutrally observe law enforcement, and remain under attorney supervision throughout each protest situation. They are easily recognizable nationwide by their bright green hats emblazoned with “National Lawyers Guild Legal Observer.” NLG legal observers play a crucial part in holding law enforcement accountable for any legal violations or Constitutional harm. They do not participate in protests or demonstrations. When police act with impunity and without legal observation, speech is chilled and our very marketplace of ideas is threatened.

The rights to free expression and public demonstration are not extinguished when tear gas is deployed, rubber bullets are fired, or a curfew is imposed. The presence of legal observers is even more important in these volatile situations. When the crowd shrinks and the number of militarized police officers grows, legal observers are needed to hold our government accountable.

We, the undersigned organizations, unequivocally condemn the targeted arrest of two trained legal observers witnessing the enforcement of a city curfew on the night of August 28, 2020. We call on local leaders to publicly join us in standing beside the arrested legal observers as they fight for their right to document the actions of law enforcement without harassment, arrest, or other interference, and demand a specific written exception for that purpose in any future curfews.

Contact: – Email to contact representatives of two legal observers arrested. Please reach out to listed organizations directly for any further questions to specific organizations.


ACLU NC | Disability Rights NC | Emancipate NC | Equality NC | North Carolina Association of Educators | NC Justice Center | National Conference of Black Lawyers – NC Chapter | National Lawyers Guild – North Carolina Chapter | National Lawyers Guild – UNC Chapel Hill Chapter | North Carolina Poor People’s Campaign | North Carolina Racial Equity Network | Southern Coalition for Social Justice | UNC Student Bar Association | Wake NC Association of Educators