Forums can be a useful way to firstly educate participants about the legal issues relevant to a campaign. They can also work to build links with the legal community and other organisations and individuals who may be able to support your campaign. Additionally, they can be useful to raise awareness about any changes in the law affecting your right to protest and wider issues around freedom of assembly and civil liberties.
If one of the aims of your forum is to get other people involved think about where and when you hold it to make it most accessible. It may be useful to film sections and upload these to your website. If you are aiming to build links make sure you have sign up sheet available for volunteers or supporters to leave their contact details.
Case study: Switch of Hazelwood and Climate Camp
Prior to Climate Camp the Justice Tracks Collective held two forums titled ‘Lawyers, Protests and the Front Line of Climate Change’ with a lawyer from the Environmental Defender’s Office and an activist from Newcastle. There was one in Sydney and one in Newcastle. The aim of these forums was primarily to build links with people in the legal community and build wider support for Climate Camp.
Prior to the Switch of Hazelwood protest the Legal Support team organised a forum ‘A Stifling Climate’ to talk about recent changes to the law which increased penalties for direct action at ‘critical infrastructure’ in order to deter protest at coal fired power stations. The forum was designed to discuss and demystify the legal changes and also to politicise the stifling of dissent they represented.