An open letter from our Executive Director

Rising to meet the needs of the moment and movement

Dear Friends,

Each day feels like a lifetime these days. It has been fourteen days since George Floyd was killed. In the days that have followed we have watched daily police violence against protesters. These images have kept us awake at night. I am personally haunted by the images we cannot see – the killing of Breonna Taylor shot eight times in her own home, that of Manuel Ellis murdered while in police custody, or the unimaginable number of others killed whose names we will never know.

We are filled with grief, horror and rage. I encourage all of us to sit in this space and go further into it. It is from this space that we can begin to understand our own role in perpetuating these moments and the role that we must play today, tomorrow and for the rest of our lifetimes. It is in this space that we can honor those who have lost their lives at the hands of systems of oppression.

Racism is woven into the fabric of this country and the foundations of our institutions. Our country was formed from the genocide of Native Americans and built by the back breaking labor of enslaved black people. Our school systems, our housing policies, our legal system, our economy and police take life and opportunity away from black communities every minute of every day.

We have silently borne witness to injustice and benefited from systems of oppression throughout our lifetimes. We live in a country where black and brown people are afraid to step outside of their homes for fear of dying, and we have been complicit in allowing this to continue. We need to rise to this moment and we, as members of the legal profession, are uniquely positioned and have a responsibility to effect change.

The needs of this moment are numerous and urgent. To support, LCCRSF is working to:

* Track and report race data on police stops and expose the inherent racism in criminalization of non-criminal behavior; advocate for policies to limit low-level policing and reduce police budgets;

* Expand our Bail Clinic to respond to reports of predatory bail bonds companies convincing protestors’ families that they have to sign egregious contracts to get their family members out of jail, and harm’s way. We will threaten to, and will litigate individual and impact cases to stop these practices;

* Create a comprehensive resource for our network of 1,000+ pro bono attorneys, which will include information about opportunities to join movement work, donate to bail funds, and Know Your Rights materials;

* Demand compensation for individuals who have been injured by the violent tactics of law enforcement, to disincentivize future police violence and get recompense for those harmed.

But the work extends far beyond this moment. For over fifty years we have worked to dismantle the many manifestations of institutionalized white supremacy and the oppression of Black communities and other people of color. This week has shown us how very far we have to go. For the rest of 2020, you will be hearing from us every week so that we may better understand the institutions that have created this moment and how we can dismantle them. We will invite you to volunteer your time and offer our resources to ensure that no one is kept out of school, harassed in public, policed or punished as a result of their race, ethnicity, or poverty. We will ask you to spend time each week learning about the racial wealth gap, the school to nowhere pipeline, how municipal infractions are used to police black communities, and the violence of our criminal legal system. To opt in to these weekly emails, please send a message to communications@lccrsf.org with a simple, “YES.”

My fear right now is this moment will pass…that we will want so desperately to move away from the rage, grief and despair that is filling us that we will forget the commitments we are making right now to end racism in all its forms in every corner of our country. We need you to help us be sure that doesn’t happen.

In love and solidarity,

Monika Kalra Varma
Executive Director