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In the familiar arenas of courtrooms and corporate suites, attorneys are paid to be certain of their clients’ legal standing — and zealously so. But when it comes to the streets and working gratis in the cause of free speech, “First Amendment rights are not something your average lawyer deals with on a daily basis,” said Susan J. Walsh, a partner at Gould, Fishbein, Reimer & Gottfried. But with the likelihood of huge demonstrations this summer in New York during the Republican National Convention at Madison Square Garden, she and others see the need for educating young lawyers in the subject area, especially those who would be legal monitors or volunteer defense counsels in the event of arrests and trials. Walsh and Raymond J. Dowd, a partner in Dowd & Marotta, are in the early planning stages of a possible June forum or CLE program at the New York County Lawyers’ Association. “We believe that consistent with the First Amendment is both the right to protest and the duty of the legal profession to get involved with insuring that this is done in a safe manner,” said Dowd, co-chair of the County Lawyers committee on entertainment, media, intellectual property and sports law. “And we believe that mapping things out in advance will probably avoid bloodshed — literally.” Presuming that the bar group settles on a program at its Vesey St. headquarters, said Walsh, head of the County Lawyers criminal justice committee, “Our goal is to foster dialogue and understanding between both sides, meaning law enforcement and, for lack of a better term, political expressionists. They should be aware of each others’ rights and needs.” To that end, Dowd and Walsh are consulting with Heidi Beghosian, executive director of the National Lawyers Guild, which has long sponsored armies of neutral observers at politically charged street demonstrations, usually law students and young practitioners. Because law campuses and the law profession are “cautious institutions,” said Beghosian, many young attorneys are not encouraged to involve themselves, as attorneys, in political activities that stand a fair chance of being something short of genteel. “A lawyer might be argumentative in court, but to transfer that to the streets is difficult,” Beghosian said. “Most people in this country haven’t participated in the kind of mass demonstrations we’ve seen in the past several years.” The liberal umbrella group known as United for Peace and Justice said at a recent press conference that it alone expects to stage a protest march of 250,000 up 8th Avenue and past Madison Square Garden, whether or not its application for a parade permit is approved by the police department. Other organizations, including anarchist cells, have predicted that as many as a million demonstrators will gather in New York to greet President George W. Bush and the Republicans. Still other groups, such as the ad hoc “Billionaires for Bush,” advocate little more than political street theatre. Whatever may come, said Beghosian, “Until you’ve been through it, it’s seen as a daunting experience.” Which is why Dowd sought out Beghosian and the Lawyers Guild, which has published the “Legal Observer Training Manual” [see below] as a guide for the sort of neutrality on the part of lawyers that he sees as necessary in the course of fostering the right to public protest without bodily harm. “Speaking for myself, what happened during [last year's] Iraq war protests, with people penned up and misdirected was really poor coordination on the part of the city,” said Dowd. “There was a lot of confusion, and people got hurt. “It’s the responsible thing for the legal profession to step up to the plate and say, Let’s plan this time,” he said. “We’re a nonpartisan group. We don’t want to make the demonstrations bigger or smaller, we just want to acquit our duties as members of the bar and be objective and really protect the public in the best way that we can.” The New York Police Department and the U.S. Secret Service declined to detail security planning for the G.O.P. convention, scheduled for Aug. 30 through Sept. 2. In light of last year’s chaotic anti-war demonstrations, when protesters were confined to pens several blocks distant from parties they wished to address at the United Nations complex on 1st Avenue, a spokesman for the police department would only say that this year’s protest areas would be “within sight and sound” of Madison Square Garden, and that Republican delegates would enjoy “uninterrupted access” to the convention site. Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly is known to attend a weekly convention security summit with officials of the Secret Service, the U.S. Coast Guard and the FBI. Summit location is unknown. Kelly recently told The New York Times, “We’re gathering information about plans that people may have to come here. And we understand, this is what America’s all about, people to demonstrate peacefully, make their feelings known. And we want to facilitate that and keep it peaceful.” Beghosian is not reassured by such remarks. “This administration does not want people across the country to see images of protesters at the convention on their TV screens,” she said. “I’m certain they [city police and federal forces] will establish an overwhelming show of force.” But with reference to lawyers and law students now in training as legal observers, Beghosian said of another kind of force, “They won’t be holding picket signs or taking up the cause, but they’ll be teaching people their basic rights.”
GUIDELINES FROM THE ‘LEGAL OBSERVER TRAINING MANUAL’ Legal observers, usually young lawyers or law students, are the eyes and ears of defense attorneys who represent political demonstrators arrested by police. The just-published “Legal Observer Training Manual” of the National Lawyers Guild advises those who monitor this summer’s Republican National Convention in New York to: � Work in teams of two. One observer should note details of arrests for potential trial documentation, the other should photograph incidents. � Carry notebook and pens, identification documents, cell phones and police misconduct forms. � Neither fraternize with nor provoke police officers. If officers demand notes, explain they are protected as attorneys’ work products. � Be vigilant for signs of agents provocateurs or police infiltration. � Tell those arrested to say nothing beyond, “I want to talk to a lawyer.” � Be mindful of “pop-up” police lines, sudden deployments of officers obstructing protesters’ movements. Note time and place, as well as officers’ names and badge numbers. � Photograph evidence of police firing weapons of any sort, and collect any spent ammunition. � After a demonstration, review notes of arrests and clarify abbreviated details. Remember, a trial likely will not occur for several months.

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