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Due to the last months of the black community facing the murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and more back to back; we are no strangers to the art of protest. Fortunately, when the Atlanta protesters are arrested and resources are limited, attorney Durante Partridge offers pro bono legal help to those in need.
“I know a lot of lawyers that I know or interact with on a regular basis,” Partridge told REVOLT of his vast network he can rely on to help protesters nationwide. âThey post things on their social media and things like that just to let people know. Do a little research [about] different lawyers and try out different law societies to see if they have information that can guide you in the right direction.
REVOLT had the chance to speak with Attorney Partridge to get his advice on what to do in the event of a police arrest, pro bono representation, and how to properly exercise your First Amendment right. Get the legal facts below.
What inspired your pro bono portrayal of arrested protesters in Atlanta?
My journey. Since I was a lawyer, and even before, [Iâve been] just protest a lot, organize and just be part of different groups that are also doing the same thing or that’s their foundation. They are in the streets protesting, they challenge politicians to change politics and things in that direction. I’ve always been around this, so it was obvious to come out and step in and do somethingâ¦ That doesn’t take anything away from public defenders or anything like that. I respect everyone on the front lines, but we all have a job to do. We all have a role to play in this regard.
How exactly do these pro bono services work?
Basically we have a group of attorneys in Atlanta who are normally retained by clients and I believe it was about 300-400 attorneys who got together and created the ATL Justice Lawyers Group on Facebook. If anyone needed help or continued to need help with our representation to protest, they could contact us at our email address. [address]â¦ Once they email us, a member of the team will retrieve their information, contact them and link them to a representation. It’s much taller than me.
One of the lawyers I admire in the community – an attorney by the name of Lawrence Silverman – just posted a tweet that really got a lot of people to step up and help, including myself. Basically, this call to action – which wasn’t necessarily a call to action – but just seeing coworkers step up [out there] It made sense for many others to do the same, and we came together to form this coalition of lawyers who are helping people and trying to do a good job for the community.
For black or brunette people who may not be in Atlanta, or who cannot afford legal aid if they are arrested, how do you advise them to seek help?
I actually went to Houston Law School and I have a few colleagues there – [a] lawyer by the name of Brenda DeRouen. She tapped into her network and basically created a list of names with regards to different lawyers, different black lawyers in particular, who wanted to help and [representing] some of our protesters who came outâ¦ If you’ve been arrested and don’t know, just check with some of the local bar association’s platforms within the local community. This is probably a good place to start. From there, just check with different attorneys to see if they offer any service when it comes to helping protesters.
How did you see corrupt police officers abuse their power and positions in the courtroom?
It’s interesting and part of the reason I don’t practice as a DA assistant that I’ve seen so much. I still see so much when it comes to police reports, no [being] 100% accurate and things like that. What happens when we talk about abuse of power, just having the power as an officer to write your own reports and in some cases you don’t write those reports on the spot. You can take notes and come back to them later, but a lot of it comes from your memories of what happened. As humans, we sometimes tend to paint things in a certain light which may or may not seem to be more positive for our narrative in certain situations. I saw a lot of things and had to correct a lot of things too, especially in situations where things were recorded and the police report contradicted what is in the recording, or vice versa.
I try to challenge officers all the time when it comes to their police reports and I like to give the best evidence I can, which will usually be a dashboard video, bodycam video or things like that, which will do shed light on what really happened instead of relying on someone’s memory.
I tell clients all the time, “We have a police report. [and] a police report is helpful in giving us direction. But I don’t trust police reports 100%, and I also have to remind some of my fellow prosecutors that they shouldn’t either.
What actions do you advise black people to take when arrested by the police?
If possible, I would record the interaction. We want to make sure that we survive the encounter and that we document the encounter as best as possible. If we are in a situation where we have stopped, just start your camera. Even if this is only an audio recording, have some sort of documentation regarding the altercation. We are seeing cases where agents turn off their body cams or don’t activate the body cam … Just so that there is no problem with what really happened, I would definitely say document everything, take pictures. notes on who arrested you and how they interacted with you, too, because if there are any issues with that interaction, you have the power to go and file a complaint against those agents. They are not completely immune to problems if they act badly.
The most important thing, I think, is to survive the encounter. It’s unfortunate that we have to have that perspective, but given some of the things we’ve seen in the media, I feel like it’s the most important thing and we can live to fight one another. day. In some situations, we did nothing to provoke negative actions or reactions. So I’m not saying we should bow down or anything like that. But, if an officer does the wrong thing, then we have to be able to survive that, file our complaint and be able to follow up to have these people removed from the local police department or where they work. These are the main things I would suggest when stopping.
There are a lot of misconceptions about exercising our rights and what we can and cannot do. How do we properly exercise our First Amendment?
I tell people all the time, especially in this climate, that the First Amendment is very important. We have to realize the fine line we have regarding the First Amendment. What can I say about it … do it. Say what you think, talk about your opinions and thoughts, and spread the story. The most important thing we can do is talk. Now the limitations come on the First Amendment when we usually interfere with someone else’s rights. For example, if we have a nondisclosure [agreement] or something like that in place and we’re talking about something that we’re under contract not to talk about, then that creates a problem. Or if we incite some type of violence or something like that, then we don’t have the freedom to speak out about it. Again, this infringes on someone else’s rights.
In terms of protesting, posting anything that doesn’t necessarily serve to push a narrative, but to mine information and put more emphasis on these issues, just keep doing it and don’t shut up. Many of us here in Atlanta are older or generations above the current generation who are leading the protests right now. We encourage them to stay on the streets and keep going because you are making the change whether you see it or not. These decision makers actually talk about these things on a daily basis, [and] Try to figure it out. A number of Confederate monuments are starting to fall and we are really gaining ground and the reparation talks. It’s just beautiful and a lot is going on right now. We just have to go on and do what we have to do.