A group of barristers across the country and a number of City firms have signed up to assist individuals arrested at Black Lives Matter protests, which emerged this week following the death of George Floyd.
In the midst of a pandemic, the US has found itself at the epicentre of a race row after a group of police officers in Minnesota were charged with, and in connection to, the murder of Floyd. What followed was a series of protests that has now spread to all fifty US states and to the UK.
Firms and barristers have offered to provide pro bono advice to protesters who were arrested at Black Lives Matter protests in the UK. These include City firms such as Hodge Jones & Allen and Bindmans, which were included in a Twitter post that the organisation Black Lives Matter UK published for protesters. The initiative has been spearheaded by Black Protest Legal Support UK, founded by family law advocate Ife Thompson.
ITN (Irvine Thanvi Natas) has also offered its services in the City in a list that included Brighton firm Kellys Solicitors. So far, Hodge Jones & Allen has worked with more than 10 protesters.
“The HJA protest team continues to be proud to represent BLM activists. Sadly they continue to be harassed and arrested at this seminal time for BAME rights. The new and indiscriminate state powers rushed in under cover of the Covid pandemic create a hostile and divisive environment in which to campaign,” said Mike Schwarz, head of the firm’s protest team.
“The police need to show restraint and actively facilitate the right to protest. They also need to make real and lasting, not just cosmetic and short-term, changes to their policing practices and culture,” he added.
Garden Court’s Zehrah Hasan was the first to sign up, and she was followed by a raft of barristers from across the bar, including Audrey Mogan and Fatima Jichi from the same set. Barristers from 5 St Andrew’s Hill have also joined, including Alexandra Wilson, Furnival Law and Red Lion Chambers – from which Daniel Robinson and Genevieve Reed are among the members to have signed up. Further barristers hail from No 5 Chambers, 25 Bedford Row, such as Abimbola Johnson, 39 Essex Chambers and 15 New Bridge Street’s Yvonne Kramo.
On 3 June, thousands of people joined the Black Lives Matter protest in Hyde Park, with protesters marching to Downing Street. 13 people were arrested during the demonstrations.