Classes were cancelled at Charlotte School of Law. However, class is not out for some of the law students who are instead wearing neon green hats to monitor the police and protesters at the Democratic National Convention taking place in Charlotte. The students were pressed into service as legal observers. They are charged with supervising events and providing objective witness statements should problems, such as the violation of the First Amendment, arise.
The Charlotte School of Law hosted several training sessions before the Convention rolled into town, training law students and members of the general public who wanted to become legal observers. The School is working in conjunction with the National Lawyers Guild, an organization which helped coordinate legal observers for major protests such as the infamous Occupy Wall Street and the Republican National Convention which recently wrapped up in Tampa, Florida.
The training includes preparing the legal observers to record as much of the event as possible and to get names and contact information of relevant individuals. The information will be made available to the police or anyone else who needs to know what transpired at a particular event.
The legal observers are told to do what their title implies-observe. They are not to get themselves involved in interactions between the police and the protesters and they are not to participate in the protests by carrying signs or wearing political buttons or messages. The observers are also not charged with deciding whether the protesters or police have violated any laws or infringed on someone’s legal rights. They are to remain thoroughly objective at all times.
“The observer is there to protect all that First Amendment space and all those First Amendment rights, but also to observe exactly what occurs,” according to Assistant Professor Jason Huber, who is in charge of training the observers under the auspices of the National Lawyers Guild and the Charlotte School of Law. While Assistant Professor Huber claims that the program could potentially help police enforcement, he concedes that it is really meant to deter potentially unlawful or unconstitutional actions on the part of the police.
The legal observers are working in pairs of two-one law student takes notes of any arrests while the other takes photos of the incident.
The idea for acting as legal observers actually originated with the law students.