The People’s Justice
National Lawyers Guild, Southern California Chapter
July-Aug. 1972, P.1
Guild Responds to Anti-War Arrests
By Jerry Blank
Within hours of Nixon’s announcement of renewed air attacks on North Vietnam and the mining of Haiphong Harbor, the National Lawyers Guild and several other groups began preparing legal information for those that may be arrested during mass demonstrations. Even before people took to the picket lines at the “Re-elect the President” campaign headquarters the next morning, the Guild circulated a legal street sheet containing vital information on arrests, bail, booking, and maintaining an accurate account of all events leading to each bust.
And, of course, the Los Angeles “Police Department” made certain that those who wished to let Nixon know how they” felt about endless killing and imperialism would need the information from the street sheets.
The busts which occurred at the headquarters (close to the Bank of America) were the most brutal and ruthless exhibits of “police” violence. On Wednesday, May 1Oth, eight persons who tried to assist Ron Kovic when he was beaten by two civilian clothed agents, who marched in the picket line earlier in the day, were busted for interfering with the arrest, as well as several counts of assault and battery on a “police” officer. Ron is a paraplegic, confined to a wheelchair, as a result of was injuries. The eight came to assist when they saw Ron (member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War) pushed out of his wheelchair by undercover agent “hippie-types”, dragged across the street, and handcuffed. Ron Ridenour, writer and photographer for the Los Angeles Free Press, was closest to this atrocity and was busted for interfering also. When he was bailed out of jail his camera was returned—film exposed! Other films and photos as well as an overwhelming number of eye witness accounts confirm the unprovoked brutality.
GUILD MEMBERS HARASSED
It was no coincidence that other Guild were singled out by the “police”. Winograd, a visiting Guild attorney from the Bay Area, was busted while he sitting on a park bench, for obstructing a public thoroughfare and different counts of pre-riot activities. This is obviously a trumped-up charge, because Barry’s presence can be accounted for at all times during the picketing, and at no time in the street.
Earle Tockman from the Bar Sinister, was arrested for blocking the street while he photographing pictures of the undercover agents beating Kovic, and charged with blocking the street (647c P.C.). Alan Zweben, from the Guild office staff was identified through “police” intelligence and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Alan and Earle took deals rather than expend their energies in a two to three week trial.
Hugh Manes and Marge Buckley were also identified by the use of “police” intelligence and were served warrants via the mail. They participated in the “die-in” on Tuesday, in front of Nixon’s headquarters. Marge[’]s trial is going on now in Division 24, before Judge Grillo.
On Thursday, the picketing continued in front of Nixon’s Headquarters. The picketing was peaceful until several provocateur undercover agents began provoking confrontations with picketers by attempting to pull some of the demonstrators out of the picket line. Upon information that a bust was occurring, Joan Andersson, attorney with the Bar Sinister, and Steve Orel, Guild Office Staff member, went to take down information regarding the arrest. At the back of the Nixon headquarters, a plain clothed agent stepped into the picket line and grabbed Steve by the arm, trying to pull him away from the line. Joan stated that she was Steve’s attorney and asked what was happening. Immediately, she was picked up and thrown to the ground by several officers (two of which were plain-clothed without provocation. She was choked until she could no longer breathe, and then handcuffed.
Dr. Robert Buker, of the Medical Committee for Human Rights (MCHR), witnessed this brutal attack and tried to give Joan aid. He was then jumped from behind, knocked to the ground, placed in a bar hold position (a billy club held tightly around his neck, and dragged away from the crowd. Apparently, the police officer lost control of himself. Bob was choked unconscious but the “police” continued to beat him. He was taken to Central Receiving Hospital, and then to County Medical Center where he remained unconscious for about three hours. He was booked on felonious assault on an officer, which was later dropped to misdemeanor assault (242, P.C.). We are lucky to have him with us!!
GUILD JOINS IN CIVIL SUIT
A civil suit was immediately filed attacking the police brutality and use of excessive force. The suit was filed on behalf of Ron Kovic, Bob Buker, and Joan Andersson, with the Medical Committee for Human Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the National Lawyers Guild joining in the suit. The hearing was before Judge Church. Several things were against us at the outset of the hearing. Church was affidavited, but it was turned down because it was filed too late. The suit was only designed to enjoin police from acting brutally and/or using excessive force against demonstrators. The suit did not attempt to question the legality or illegality of the arrests, but only the treatment by the police, of those who were arrested, both at the time of the arrest and while they were in custody.
However, the prosecution began a line of questioning that involved incidents that occurred several days before the picketing or arrests occurred. It was clear that this was a prosecution device to obtain discovery. We objected to this line of questioning, but were naturally overruled.
We chose to dismiss the suit because we felt that answers to this line of questioning would jeopardize the trials of the three plaintiffs who had criminal trials pending. Although we were not defeated, we certainly were not satisfied with the outcome of the suit. At least, we did gain some affidavits from the “police” which are helpfully in contradiction with each other.
The government’s repressive tactics continued after the arrest. The Guild’s bail committee had everyone out in hours. However, everyone was cited to appear the next morning for arraignment, an unusual procedure designed to keep people away from the picket lines. This failed however, as legal staff were prepared to and did complete all arraignments when scheduled.
Guild legal people went into action immediately to coordinate defenses. Individual files were set up, fact statements were written, witness statements were gathered. Within a few days a meeting was held with all defendants from the, Nixon headquarters busts. Tactics and strategies for providing effective defense were discussed and the groups began to work together collectively. All defendants and legal people have been meeting weekly to make decisions regarding the manner in which the cases should be defended. The meetings also concentrate on strategies for maintaining the issues before the courts and the people—-the War. Fundraisers have been planned, and the first one that we had was very successful and encouraging. Court attendance has been fairly large, but could stand room for improvement. At some points there have been as many as 50 people, while at others there have been only three. Excellent leaflets have been prepared, and we have attempted to do good leafleting.
A “defense committee” was appointed to coordinate the work of the group. This committee set up security precautions for files and evidence such as photos and negatives. Other defense committees were contacted so that resources could be joined and strengthened. The defense committee issued a statement defining the responsibilities of the defendants who are each required to work on their own case and the group defense. The idea that lawyers maintain a mystique to keep their clients out of the way while deals are made does not exist. The individual defendants are a vital part of this action and participate fully in research, preparation, and decision making. The legal workers and defendants compliment each other through the sharing of legal expertise, experience, and coordination with political expertise and desires.
Over 45 lawyers have committed their services to working with all defendants and overcoming the unmitigated violence inflicted by the LAPD.
The pre-bust preparation and present togetherness of the defendants and legal people are leading to victory and success, in the impotent courts and on the streets. Of course, there have been problems and struggles. We feel that we have learned a lot about what it means to conduct a collective defense. What out pitfalls are, etc. We hope to publish some type of manual on collective defense so that we can share our experiences with others.
TRIALS IN PROGRESS:
Now, in Division 31, before Judge Watson, three defendants, Ron Kovic, Leigh Hunt, and Deacon Alexander (in pro-per) are on trial for one count each of blocking a public thoroughfare (647c, P.C.). At the time this paper is going to press, they are beginning their third week of trial. They have succeeded in introducing a great quantity of educational information about the issues of the war in their trial. They, and their defense attorneys, Mike Kogan, Bob Mendell, and myself have explained things to the jury such as why they chose to picket in front of Nixon’s headquarters, and the Bank of America, what the fist salute means, what imperialism means. The defendants have been successful in holding a moment of silence at the end of each trial day for all of those that have been killed in Vietnam during the Previous three days. Ruthie Gorton sang “Last Train to Nuerenburg” on two separate occasions. Although much anti-War testimony has been admitted into evidence, Judge Watson has still contended that the defendants have broken the law, and it is assumed that she will instruct the jury for a conviction. Watson has stated that malice does not include intent, and that therefore the defendants have broken law regardless of their intent.
Downstairs, in Division 24, Marge Buckley, Herb Magidson, Don Freed, and one other person are on trial for the same charges of 647c, stemming from the “die-in”.
Their attempt is to put on a Nuerenburg Defense, using expert testimony from Hugh Manes, and Sam Rosenwine, on the illegal practices by the United States in land warfare in Vietnam, and how that conflicts with the Nuerenburg_ agreement, of which the U.S. signed. The Nuerenburg Defense states that U.S. citizens may take such actions as are appropriate to call attention to and/or stop any illegal actions on the part of the U.S. in land warfare. In most trials, the mere presentation of the Nuerenburg Defense has been denied. A ruling has not yet been made on it for this trial. David Finkel is of head counsel for this case.
AND THE TRIALS GO ON: UCLA, VALLEY STATE . . .
Trials are still pending for other anti-War demonstrations that occurred during the step-up of the air-War. 75 people were arrested at San Fernando Valley State College. Seymore Mandel has been handling the greater bulk of these cases.
54 people were arrested on May 10th, at UCLA. UCLA Law School professors, Leon Letwin, Dick Wasserstrom, and Bruce Fisher have been counseling defendants and taking on many of the cases. The Guild office has been working with some of the people in an attempt to help set up a mass, collective defense.
Since May 10th, approximately 30 warrants have been issued for UCLA activists that participated in the demonstrations. UCLA and LAPD have been going to people’s houses and arresting them at late hours of the night at gun-point. In some cases, people have been charged with up to 15 counts. The Guild office has been working closely with these students. Since these arrests are still occurring daily, we are still in need of more attorneys to help with arraignments, · etc.
This article should be considered a call for help to any attorneys and/or legal researchers that can be of any help (at least in an advisory capacity, if not actually going to trial) to these people. If the work load is spread out, it will mean that more of us have more time to do the case work, as well as resume our anti-War work which brought us to these trials in the first place.
There were collective decisions made when all of these people committed themselves to participate in street actions, and there must now be collective support to aid demonstrators in their mass-defense.
If anyone you know has any resources, any witness statements, films, photographs, any time to put into work around these cases, or knows anyone that was busted who is without counsel, please contact the Anti-War Defense through the Guild office, at 380-3180. Checks for legal defense can be made out to the Anti-War Defense Fund, and sent to the Guild office, at 715 South Parkview Street, Los Angeles, California 90057.
Peace and Solidarity
As we were going to press, the jury verdict came in. The court room has filled with our sisters and brothers who were in front of Nixon’s headquarters and who sat with the defendants throughout the trial. The jury deliberated for four hours, and came back with convictions on all four counts of 647c. against Alexander, Hunt and Kovic (two counts). Some people were able to talk with the jurors who said that they felt that the protest was proper but that the defendants had sat in the streets. Sentencing will be August 1 after a probational review. It will occur in Division 31 at 1:30 P.M.