Amanda Schemkes is a grassroots organizer and a lawyer who provides legal support to activists, frontline communities, and political prisoners. Amanda decided to become a lawyer because of her experiences in the animal liberation movement, through which she saw a need for legal support that is grounded in solidarity and resistance. She has traveled throughout the country to work with people who are fighting to protect the earth and its inhabitants.
You can support her work by making a recurring monthly donation or a one time contribution. Donations are processed by the Backbone Campaign, a 501c3 not for profit organization and are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law.
When I was around the age of eight years old, I had a tree house in my backyard. It was a simple tree house—basically just a platform—but it was one of my favorite places to spend time. Sometimes I would get other kids in the neighborhood to spend time in my treehouse with me, having meetings of the “Earth Savers” club that I created. Other times, I would spend the time by myself working on my master plan: I wanted to build a flying contraption that I could use to soar over the local factories and drop what I envisioned as a giant paper wad into the smoke stacks to stop the factories from polluting the air. I wanted to save the world from everything I saw hurting it, and I was dreaming big about how to do so.
As I grew up, I abandoned my plan of building a flying contraption, but I’ve never lost the inner drive to want to work to protect the earth, humans, and animals. My treehouse meetings and plotting have since turned into grassroots organizing. For the last ten years, I’ve engaged in activism in the animal liberation movement—which has been my foundation for becoming an organizer. I began with learning as much as I could from others, and gradually began engaging in educating others about animal issues through tabling, leafleting, and attending protests. Before long, I was drawn into campaign organizing, with the most notable part (so far) of that being my work as a founder and co-organizer of the No New Animal Lab campaign. The campaign became the biggest campaign in the grassroots animal liberation movement in over a decade, which included people participating in over a dozen U.S. cities as well as internationally, marches of hundreds of people, a lawsuit that changed the practices of the University of Washington Board of Regents, national media coverage, and networking/speaking tours throughout the U.S. and Europe.
My work in the animal liberation movement led me to law school. I watched as my friends were arrested for protest activity and didn’t have lawyers who understood political cases, so I decided that I would take on the role of being someone who was an activist and a lawyer—I could be that bridge. Attending law school and becoming a lawyer expanded the work I was doing. I now provide legal support to climate justice and land defense activists through presenting legal trainings, providing on-the-ground support during actions, doing jail support, guiding people through post-arrest meetings, and supporting people through navigating their cases. I also do legal support for political prisoners, primarily activists convicted on federal “terrorism” charges for the political nature of their cases. I currently actively do support work for the Cleveland 4, sentenced with a “terrorism enhancement,” and Nicole & Joseph, who were indicted under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. Additionally, I write articles and present talks about a mixture of legal and organizing topics in order to share knowledge and create discussion about the political context in which we work.
Doing this work full time is greatly needed, so I seek support from my community so I can completely dedicate myself to providing legal and solidarity support to prisoners and frontline activists. Please support my work with a donation.
Over and over, people tell me about the impact that my work has on them and that they see it have on the groups and movements that I work with, and that it inspires them to have the confidence to take action—I always feel honored to hear this. It’s amazing to see people who I respect and do their own wonderful work think that what I do has a special place in the movement fabric that we’re all weaving together and that it can personally impact people. I feel like I must do everything I can to live up to this—for those people and because I know that we all must do everything we can to protect the land, animals, and each other. I want people to always feel like I’ll be there for them as we all work to take care of each other.
I unfortunately no longer have a tree house to spend time in, but I’m still dreaming about how to save the world…in more practical ways than I used to. Taking care of each other, building community and networks, developing strategic campaigns, offering radical legal support, challenging the narrative of the status quo, looking towards a future of building our movements into being even stronger and more powerful forces.
Thank you for supporting my work as a CSO so that I may continue to dedicate myself to supporting all of you, our movements, and the worlds we seek to create. You can set up monthly recurring payments or make a one time contribution.
“Amanda is an amazing person to work with. She is professional, responds to emails, keeps track of timelines, is available for questions, is an effective listener, and always asks the right questions. She is well-paced, thoughtful, intentional, and humble.” – Chiara D’Angelo, following Amanda’s work on her case for locking herself to the anchor of one of Shell’s ships
“I have known Amanda for years—in fact, she is widely known across the country as an incredibly capable grassroots activist and organizer. So when my codefendant and I were first arrested, she was one of the first people to receive a phone call. Immediately, she was putting out alerts, managing a huge volume of inquiries as our support contact, and finding us attorneys to represent us pro bono. This was on top of running multiple animal rights campaigns and attending law school at the time. She has also coordinated several national activism tours, international campaigns, and legal challenges. In her animal rights work, she has always sought to build bridges to other movements. I have been involved in activism for over a decade, and I have met few others who are as intelligent, efficient, and dedicated as Amanda. She has the intelligence and drive, but most notably, she has the unique understanding of government repression and activist concerns that can only be gained from experience in the trenches. Amanda has lived with us and struggled with us.” – Kevin Johnson, indicted under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act for freeing animals from a fur farm and served three years in prison
"Amanda and I have crossed paths many times over the last decade, sometimes unknowingly. We’ve both been increasingly active in animal, environmental, and social justice advocacy work in the Pacific Northwest, and over the last few years we have begun to work more closely together as organizers. In that time, my admiration and respect for her work and her dedication to justice and advocacy has only grown. For as long as I’ve known her, Amanda has never lost the unwavering fervor of her convictions. Amanda is not passion without reason. Her dynamism is underpinned by a strong critical analysis of the social structures and institutional barriers involved in the subjection and repression of communities and individuals for whom she seeks to advocate." -- Justin Kay, co-organizer of the No New Animal Lab campaign with Amanda, a co-founder of Resistance Ecology, and an international solidarity organizer for Palestinian Animal League