CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Protesters! Think that cop is violating your rights? Wrongful arrest? Look for the fluorescent green hat marked LEGAL OBSERVER.
The Charlotte School of Law is sending dozens of law students to monitor police and protesters for violations of both the law and the Constitution at protests surrounding the upcoming Democratic National Convention.
“The observer is there to protect all that first amendment space and all those first amendment rights, but also to observe exactly what occurs,” said Assistant Professor Jason Huber, who is supervising the training of the observers under the National Lawyers Guild and the Charlotte School of Law and its Civil Rights Clinic.
The observers are trained not to take sides–not to try to enforce the law like police or to carry signs or wear political buttons or messages like protesters.
“The duty of the legal observer is to act as an objective witness,” added Huber.
Training this week at the Charlotte School of Law focuses on arrests and documenting the details of arrests with teams of two—one law student taking notes and the second taking photos.
“It is more of a deterrent to potential unlawful actions or unconstitutional actions on the part of police officers,” said Huber. “The legal services program could potentially serve the interest of the police officers.”
The job of the legal observers: support the first and fourth amendments to the Constitution and the rights of free speech and free assembly, even if it’s ugly.