200+ Atlanta lawyers offer pro bono legal services to arrested protesters
ATLANTA - Protests this week remained peaceful in Atlanta, but several protesters were still taken into custody.
The number of arrests will likely go up as the protests continue, and the need for legal representation will as well.
A group of more than 200 lawyers are offering pro bono services to detained protesters.
“Lawyers are either parasites of society or agents for social change," said Michael Sterling, a partner and defense attorney at Dreyer Sterling LLC.
Representing arrested protesters at no expense is how Sterling says he is being an agent for social change.
He joins one of more than 200 Atlanta-based lawyers pooling their resources to form ATL Justice Lawyers.
“It was upsetting to us that we saw instances of protesters who were peacefully protesting or protecting other protesters from excessive police interference, finding themselves on the wrong side of the counsel table being arrested," Sterling said.
The Atlanta Police Department announced officers made 298 arrests between Friday and Sunday.
Sterling says he and his colleagues have started to pull the records of those arrested.
“What we want to make sure is that those individuals, particularly those who are peacefully protesting, have lawyers, good lawyers who are going to represent them.”
Sterling encourages protesters to remain peaceful and to record everything. Legal observers will be present to offer legal advice.
“You may want to go up to them and say ‘Hey, am I doing something that’s wrong? Are we obstructing the law?’" Sterling said. "They will be out there giving advice on what to do to make sure you’re not arrested, but they will also be watching to make sure police aren’t violating individuals’ rights."
The death of George Floyd sparked national unrest, and Sterling says he thinks this tipped the scale.
The two-time HBCU graduate says he has never seen anything like this.
"I remember seeing a lot of my contemporaries say ‘I’m tired. I'm just exhausted. I’m tired of seeing this,'" Sterling said. "I wanted to send a message that I’m not tired. I'm not frustrated. I’m resolved. I’m determined.”
Sterling says protesters in need of help can contact the ATL Justice Lawyers at their Facebook page or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.