A legal observer is a trained observer that observes activities involving people exercising their Constitutional rights.
The National Lawyers Guild Legal Observer program was established in 1968 in New York City in response to protests at Columbia University and city-wide antiwar and civil rights demonstrations. That same year, Guild students organized for the defense of people swept up in mass arrests at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
The Legal Observer program is part of a comprehensive system of legal support designed to enable people to express their political views as fully as possible without unconstitutional disruption or interference by the police and with the fewest possible consequences from the criminal justice system. In addition to Legal Observers, Guild attorneys often provide legal defense for protesters who are arrested and bring civil litigation if needed.
Legal Observers are typically, but not exclusively, law students, legal workers and lawyers who may or may not be licensed locally. Legal Observers are trained and directed by Guild attorneys, who often have established attorney-client relationships with activist organizations, or are in litigation challenging police tactics at mass assemblies.
The ACLU is also on hand to assist the Occupy Wall Street Protesters. They pass out literature to protesters that explains the rights and responsibilities of protesters.
Teams of NYCLU staff and volunteers regularly visit the movement's headquarters at Zuccotti Park to distribute our Know Your Rights information and engage the demonstrators' on their experiences with the NYPD. The park's makeshift library is well-stocked with our Demonstrating in New York City and What to Do if You're Stopped by the Police guides. We're engaging the protestors on Facebook and Twitter as well.
And, our royal blue-clad legal observers are on hand monitoring police activity and recording any instances of police misconduct.
If you or somebody you know has been the victim of police misconduct associated with the protests, if you've seen the police engaging in intimidating behavior or using video cameras in a way that chills the right to protest, or if you've seen the police doing something right, please tell us about it. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and tell your story. We're collecting your videos and photos, too.
Non-violent direct action is the method used by the OWS movement so the legal observers are there to observe and document the actions of both the protesters and the police.