Walter Riley

Growing up in the Jim Crow South, Walter became an activist at a young age. He served as President of the Young Adult Chapter of North Carolina’s NAACP, organizing voter registration campaigns, lunch counter sit-ins, job campaigns, and desegregation campaigns in public accommodations, schools, and businesses. He also chaired the Durham chapter of CORE’s (Congress of Racial Equality) Freedom Highways Project, which sought to desegregate public facilities on Highway 1 from Maine to Florida.

Walter moved to San Francisco in 1965 and continued his activism. While a student at SF State University, he was involved in Students for a Democratic Society, Black Students for Open Admissions, and the push for Black and ethnic studies. After leaving school in 1968, he helped organize a Rank and File Black Caucus among the Muni bus drivers. He also worked in the labor and antiwar movements, as well as with The Black Panthers and in community efforts to stop urban removal of black and other working-class communities. As a founding member of the Peace and Freedom Party Central Committee, he co-chaired the Peace and Freedom’s Black Caucus with Eldred Cleaver and chaired Kathleen Cleaver’s State Assembly Campaign. In1970 he moved to Chicago, where he became a rank and file activist of the United Auto Workers, a welfare rights activist, and a housing advocate. Later, in Detroit, he organized as a rank and file labor activist in the automobile industry.

Walter is currently a member of the California Bar Association, National Lawyers Guild, Charles Houston Bar Association, ACLU, #BlackLivesMatter, and Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI). He is Chair of the Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute, Co-Chair of the John George Democratic Club, National Board member of the Black Worker Center, and Chair of the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund. His activism has centered around education and schools, anti-apartheid, police misconduct, voter registration and cultural issues. Recently, Walter was the lead attorney for the Blackfriday14 and other #BlackLivesMatter protesters.

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