A recent article published in CounterPunch mentioned the Civil Liberties Defense Center (CLDC) in a way that some readers found to be inaccurate or even disparaging. Whether that portrayal of CLDC was intentional or negligent, or even a COINTELPRO-like effort to create divisions among activists, this article should set the record straight on what CLDC does and does not do.
CLDC is a federally-recognized 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the civil liberties of minorities, oppressed people, and activists working to make the world a better place. Our board and staff are composed of passionate and experienced activists and lawyers that have made lifetime commitments to seeking justice, creating positive social change, and protecting the planet. CLDC provides hundreds of hours of free legal consultation, training, and legal representation every year. From the Occupy Movement to rural immigration rights campaigns, CLDC provides these services to activists working on many different issues across a broad spectrum. Notably this broad spectrum includes environmental activists and GLBTQAIA activists, and CLDC has provided many hours of free legal consultation to activists with Deep Green Resistance, the group discussed in the aforementioned article.
Since 2003, CLDC has provided legal representation in court – for free – to almost 2,000 individual activists. Notably, the CLDC defended the non-cooperating activists federally prosecuted during the Green Scare, advised many non-cooperating grand jury subpoenaed individuals, and regularly provides legal support to radical activists around the country who are contacted by the FBI, subpoenaed to grand juries, or indicted on serious charges. When activists stand up to government repression, we willingly stand with them in solidarity. In the past couple years alone, CLDC represented over 50 unhoused activists who were arrested for protesting—and won major constitutional victories in the process—including a federal civil rights victory that was filed after US attorneys dropped criminal charges when it was clear we were going to win in the federal criminal courts. CLDC has also defended dozens of climate justice activists across the country, including Native American tribal members protesting the Megaloads in rural eastern Oregon where racism and lack of legal resources continue to oppress indigenous activists. In many other cases, CLDC serves as legal support—writing briefs, helping to explain legalese to activists, and ensuring that they are represented zealously and as political activists in order to ensure these activists will return to the movements they are a part of. CLDC has also provided legal assistance to activists fighting the Tar Sands and Keystone XL pipeline, and activists with the “Shell No!” campaign against arctic drilling. CLDC has trained more than 150 trainers to give “know your rights” trainings, including training over 20 Spanish-speaking bilingual trainers. This is just a small sample of CLDC’s regular workload with only one staff attorney.
Most recently, CLDC hosted the second annual Next Generation Climate Justice Action Camp for youth. This camp brought together a diverse group of youth and adult organizers to share tools and stories and prepare the next generation of climate justice organizers for the work that is to come. Both youth and adults rose to the occasion for a busy week of workshops and planning that culminated in an inspiring youth-led protest, rally, and march against the construction of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) export pipeline.
In a spirited protest, the youth, ages 13-18, gathered at the office of the pipeline company and delivered a “Permit Denied” sign. They informed the pipeline company: “We are the future and you are destroying us. By creating this destructive pipeline you will harm rivers, animals, and peoples’ homes. The LNG pipeline is an invasion and disrespects the earth. The future deserves a clean, beautiful, and healthy earth. We, the youth, deny this pipeline. We promise to continue fighting for justice and future generations. Money is not worth the destruction of our earth.” The youth then took to the streets for a march, rally, street theater, and public die-in.
CLDC is, and will continue to be, committed to these principles of justice, positive change, empowerment and coalition-building among activists and youth, including those in disenfranchised or oppressed communities. We hope you join us in solidarity in this important struggle. Assert your rights, we’ve got your back.