In September, the Center for Public Interest Law and the DePaul chapter of National Lawyers Guild co-sponsored a lunch panel on police violence and misconduct in the wake of the mass protests in Ferguson, Missouri, after Michael Brown was fatally shot by police officer Darren Wilson.
Moderated by alumna Sarah Gelsomino from the Peoples Law Office, the panel emphasized the role of lawyers, law students and legal workers in supporting communities resisting police violence. The panel emphasized that civil litigation is but one avenue for attempting to hold police accountable and it is most effective when done in conjunction with grassroots community activism.
DePaul law student Max Suchan (JD '15) shared his experience after spending a week in Ferguson at the end of August as a legal observer with the National Lawyers Guild. Suchan described a "disproportionate and heavily militarized" police presence. He also described community organizing that took place on the south and west sides of Chicago in response to the deaths of DeSean Pittman and Roshad McIntosh, on August 2014.
As partner at the Peoples Law Office, Gelsomino has sued the Chicago police department for verbal and physical misconduct using § 1983. Gelsomino described this endeavor, underscoring that she believes there are “whole areas of the city where police disregard the Constitution,” and that those areas tend to be neighborhoods of color or low income communities.
Alumnus Elliot Slosar from Loevy and Loevy also shared his experiences bringing § 1983 lawsuits against the police. Slosar told the audience that police accountability work does not have to begin with a law degree, and he encouraged students to get involved now to learn from and support communities engaged in struggle against police violence.