The virtual workshop helped students to understand their constitutional rights when fighting for change
On Nov. 5, the CSU hosted a virtual workshop as the second part of their Black Lives Matter campaign. The event focused on educating attendees about their basic legal rights when participating in activism and social justice work.
The workshop was given by Arij Riahi, a Montreal lawyer who focuses on cases of racial profiling and works with grassroots communities, students, and individuals from marginalized communities. Riahi has been involved with social justice and anti-racism work for as long as she can remember.
Riahi’s presentation covered the constitutional rights one has if detained, the different crimes that people participating in demonstrations can be charged with, and how to “cop watch” safely and legally.
Riahi hoped the event would equip its attendees with the ability to make informed decisions in their activism.
“I am a firm believer that knowledge is power,” she said. “I am a firm believer that every single person should evaluate for themselves the level of consent when they enter a political action.”
She also advises activists to think of others when protesting. She said, “Come from a perspective of care, and always be mindful of the people around you.”
Put your own political practice within a broader scheme, and make sure that you understand who is involved, and why they are involved.”
While she believes strongly in the importance of sharing legal knowledge and understanding one’s rights, Riahi acknowledges the complexities of the law.
“It’s a learning curve,” she said. “There’s always room to learn more, to know more.”
The event concluded with a presentation from Walter Chi-yan Tom of the CSU’s Legal Information Clinic (LIC). Tom discussed different tickets that can be given at demonstrations, including social distancing infractions, and the ensuing court process, with information about the rights of immigrants and international students when receiving a ticket or a criminal charge.
Tom encouraged students who have legal questions to contact the LIC, a free service for students to receive legal information and referrals.
Jessica Quijano, a spokesperson for Montreal’s Defund the Police Coalition, agrees that it is important for everyone who attends demonstrations and advocates for BLM to understand their legal rights, but emphasizes the importance of centering minorities to ensure safety at protests.
She urges allies to remember the communities that will be targeted and focus on helping the movement.
“It’s really important to not take the voices away from the people that are the most affected by police violence,” she said.
Is this about you or is it about a collective movement?” Quijano asked people to consider.
In addition to attending protests and informational events, Quijano encourages those who want to help the movement to try to do six actions after every protest they attend.
“It could be making phone calls or sending emails to your local representatives … educating people around you, and your family,” she said. “The protests and education part is one piece of it, but then it always has to go further than that.”
The series of virtual workshops provided by the CSU’s #BLM Campaign aims to equip students to participate in anti-racism work. They will be occurring regularly throughout the rest of the fall semester.
Riahi is currently working to allow her workshop to be accessed online.
Graphic by Taylor Reddam