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Due to the past few months of the Black community dealing with the killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and more back-to-back; we are no stranger to the art of protesting. Thankfully, when 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 I’m familiar with or I interact with regularly,” Partridge tells REVOLT about his extensive network who he can rely on to help protesters nationwide. “They post things on their social media and things like that just to let it be known. Do research a bit [about] different lawyers and try the different bar organizations to see if they have the information that can lead you in the right way.
REVOLT had the chance to speak with attorney Partridge to get his insight on what actions to take when stopped by the police, pro bono representation, and how to properly exercise your First Amendment right. Get the legal facts below.
What inspired your pro bono representation of protesters who were arrested in Atlanta?
My background. Since I have been an attorney, and even before, [I’ve been] just doing a lot of protesting, organizing and just being part of different groups who also do the same thing or that’s their foundation. They’re in the streets protesting, they’re challenging politicians to change policy and things along those lines. I’ve always been around it, so it was a no brainer to step out and step up to do something… That doesn’t take away from public defenders or anything like that. I respect everyone that’s on the frontline, but we all have a job to do. We all have a role to play in that regard.
How exactly do these pro bono services work?
Essentially, we have a group of lawyers in Atlanta who are normally retained by clients and I believe it was about 300-400 lawyers who got together, and created the ATL Justice Lawyers Group on Facebook. If anyone needed assistance or continued to need assistance with respect to our representation for protesting, they could contact us at our email [address]… Once they email us, someone from the team will grab their information, make contact with them and pair them with representation. It’s a lot bigger than myself.
One of the lawyers that I look up to in the community — a lawyer by the name of Lawrence Silverman — just put out a tweet that really compelled a lot of people to just step up and help out, including myself. Basically that call-to-action — which wasn’t necessarily a call-to-action — but just seeing fellow colleagues put themselves [out there] made sense for a lot of other people to do the same, and we just came together to form this coalition of lawyers who are helping people and trying to do good work for the community.
For those Black or brown people who may not be in Atlanta or have the means to pay for legal help if they’re arrested, how do you advise them on seeking out help?
I actually went to law school in Houston and I have a couple colleagues out there — [a] lawyer by the name of Brenda DeRouen. She tapped into her network and basically created a list of names as it relates to different lawyers, different Black lawyers specifically, that were interested in helping out and [representing] some of our protesters who are out… If you have been arrested and you don’t know, just check with some of the local bar association platforms within the local community. That’s probably a good place to start. From there, just check-in with different lawyers to see if they offer some service with respects to help with protesters.
How have you seen corrupt police officers abuse power and their positions in the courtroom?
It’s interesting and it’s part of the reason why I’m not practicing as an assistant D.A. I saw so much. I still see so much as it relates to police reports not [being] 100% accurate and things like that. What happens when we talk about an abuse of power, just having that authority as an officer to write your own reports and in some instances, you’re not writing those reports right on the spot. You might take some notes and then revisit it later, but a lot of that comes off of your recollection of what happened. As humans, we have a tendency sometimes to paint things in a certain light that may appear to be more positive for our narrative or not in some situations. I did see a lot of that and had to correct a lot of that as well, especially in those situations where things were recorded and the police report contradicts that of what’s in the recording, or vice versa.
I try to challenge officers all the time as it relates to their police reports and I like to give the best evidence that I can, which typically is gonna be dash cam video, bodycam video or things like that, which will shed light on what really happened as opposed to relying on someone’s memory.
I tell clients all the time, “We have a police report [and] a police report is helpful to give us some direction.” But, I don’t 100% rely on police reports and I have to remind some of my prosecutor colleagues, as well, that they should not also.
What actions do you advise Black people to take when they’re stopped by police?
If at all 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’re in a situation where we’re being pulled over, just start your camera. Even if it’s just audio recording, have some sort of documentation as it relates to the altercation. We see cases where officers will turn off their bodycam, or not activate the bodycam… Just so there’s no issues in respect to what actually happened, I would definitely say document everything, take notes in relation to who stopped you and how they interacted with you, as well, because if there’s any issues with that interaction, you are empowered to go and make a complaint against those officers. They’re not totally immune to any issues if they are doing wrong.
The most important thing, I think, is to survive the encounter. It’s unfortunate that we have to have that outlook, but given some of the things that we’ve seen in the media, I just feel like that’s the most important thing and that we can live to fight another day. In some situations, we’ve done nothing to provoke the negative actions or reactions. So, I’m not saying we should bow down or anything like that. But, if an officer is doing the wrong thing, then we need to be able to survive that, file our complaint and be able to follow up to get those people removed from the local police department or wherever they’re working. Those are the primary things that I would suggest when getting stopped.
There’s 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 during this climate, the First Amendment is very important. We have to realize the fine line that we have regarding the First Amendment. What I can say in regards to that… just do it. Speak your mind, speak on your opinions, and your thoughts, and spread the narrative. That’s the most important thing we can do is speak. Now, the limitations come on the First Amendment when we are impeding on someone else’s rights typically. For instance, if we have a non-disclosure [agreement] or something like that in place and we’re speaking on something that we’re under contract to not speak on, then that creates a problem. Or if we’re inciting some type of violence or something along those lines, then we don’t have the freedom to speak as it relates to that. Again, that’s impeding on someone else’s rights.
As far as protesting, posting everything that goes to not necessarily pushing a narrative, but exploiting information and just putting a bigger spotlight on these issues, continue to do it and don’t shut up. A lot of us here in Atlanta, we’re older or generations above the current generation that’s leading the protests right now. We’re encouraging them to stay out in the streets and keep going because you’re making the change whether you see it or not. These policymakers are actually talking about this stuff on a daily basis, [and] trying to figure it out. A number of confederate monuments are starting to come down and we’re really gaining traction and the talks of reparations. It’s just beautiful and a lot of things are happening at this point. We just have to keep going and doing what we have to do.