Tag: ACLU

Georgia ACLU and Voting Rights Activists Move to Block Plan to Close Two-Thirds of Randolph County’s Polling Places

Georgia ACLU Staff (photo via aclu.org)

by Vanessa Williams, WashingtonPost via sandiegouniontribune.com

Voting rights activists in Georgia say they will launch a petition drive in an effort to collect enough signatures of registered voters to block a proposal to close more than two-thirds of polling precincts in a predominantly black county ahead of this fall’s general election.

The plan to shutter the voting sites in Randolph County, a rural community about 2½ hours south of Atlanta, has been drawn dozens of local residents and progressive groups to two public hearings in recent days. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a formal protest with the county’s board of elections.

Brian Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state, which oversees elections operations throughout the state, has issued a statement urging Randolph County officials to “abandon this effort.” Kemp also is the Republican nominee in one of the country’s most-watched gubernatorial contests. The Democratic nominee, Stacey Abrams, a former state legislator, is seeking to become the nation’s first black female governor.

The two-member county election board – a third member stepped down recently – has scheduled a vote for Friday on the proposal to shutter seven of the county’s nine polling places, citing problems including facilities in disrepair or inaccessible to persons with disabilities. But some activists are suspicious of the board’s motives, noting that Randolph County is 60 percent black and many residents have low incomes. The county, which covers 431 square miles, has no public transportation system.

All nine of the polling places were used for the May primaries and less than a month ago for statewide run-offs, in which Kemp, helped by an endorsement from President Donald Trump, beat Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle for the GOP nomination.

Local news outlets reported heated discussions at meetings on Thursday and Friday, with residents and activists alleging the move was aimed at suppressing turnout in the county, in which more than 55 percent of the voters are black and have backed Democratic candidates in statewide elections.

County officials and a consultant hired by local officials said the closures were necessary because the sites were not compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act and there was not time to fix them before the Nov. 6 general election. They also suggested that affected residents could vote by absentee ballot.

“You don’t solve problems of accessibility for people with disabilities by reducing access for people without disabilities,” said Andrea Young, executive director of the Georgia ACLU, which wrote a letter to the board stating that the closures would be a violation of the Voting Rights Act because it would have a negative effect on African-American voters. The group noted that African-Americans make up more than 96 percent of the voters at one of the polling places slated for closure.

Unsure if the board will be persuaded by the arguments for keeping the polling places open, some activists will try to stop the plan by using a state law that forbids the closure of voting sites if 20 percent of the registered voters in the affected precinct object to the change. The county currently has just over 4,000 registered voters.

Nse Ufot, executive director of the New Georgia Project, a voter registration and education group, said activists will begin collecting signatures Sunday, spreading the word at morning church services.

“We want to see to it that the hundreds of students we registered at Andrew College and the people we’ve registered in Randolph are able to exercise their sacred, fundamental right to vote,” Ufot said. The goal is to submit the petition before the board’s scheduled Friday vote.

A similar petition drive overturned a decision two years ago by elections officials in Macon-Bibb County to relocate a polling place from a school to the sheriff’s office.

“These polling place closures are part of a stark pattern that we are seeing across Georgia whereby officials are working to make it harder for African Americans and other minorities to vote,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “The more communities mobilize to turn out the vote, the harsher the voter suppression efforts undertaken by officials. We are prepared to use every tool in our arsenal to ensure that African American voters are able to have meaningful access to the polls this election cycle.”

Read more: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/us-politics/ct-georgia-voting-rights-polling-places-20180818-story.html#

New Rules Adopted by the Los Angeles Police Commission Make Fewer Shootings by LAPD the Goal

LAPD (photo via latimes.com)

article by Kate Mather via latimes.com

The Los Angeles Police Commission voted Tuesday to require officers to try, whenever possible, to defuse tense encounters before firing their guns — a policy shift that marks a significant milestone in the board’s attempts to curb shootings by police.

The new rules formally incorporate a decades-old concept called “de-escalation” into the Los Angeles Police Department’s policy outlining how and when officers can use deadly force. As a result, officers can now be judged specifically on whether they did all they could to reduce tensions before resorting to their firearms.

Tuesday’s unanimous vote caps a 13-month effort by the Police Commission to revise the policy. Two sentences will be added to the department’s manual, the first of which tells officers they must try to de-escalate a situation — “whenever it is safe and reasonable to do so” — by taking more time to let it unfold, moving away from the person and trying to talk to him or her, and calling in other resources.Not everyone supported the new policy, however.

The American Civil Liberties Union sent the commission a letter before Tuesday’s meeting expressing concern the revisions did not go far enough to explicitly state that de-escalation would be considered when determining whether an officer’s use of force was reasonable. Without such language, the letter said, the ACLU urged commissioners to “refuse to accept the proposed revisions as complete.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, the commission’s inspector general said because commissioners can consider whether an officer’s actions before a shooting contributed to that shooting, the revisions do allow the panel to consider an officer’s de-escalation efforts — or lack of them — when deciding if a shooting was justified or not.

New training and directives from the LAPD reinforce the importance of de-escalation and the policy change, the inspector general, Alex Bustamante, added. LAPD officers expected to face more scrutiny over shootings with new rulesThe revamped policy is the latest in a series of changes the five-person Police Commission has made in hopes of reducing shootings by officers. For almost two years, the civilian panel has pushed LAPD brass for more training and to provide officers with less-lethal devices, as well as a stronger emphasis on avoiding deadly force whenever possible.

To read full article, go to: Fewer shootings by police — that’s the goal of new rules adopted by the L.A. Police Commission – LA Times

ACLU Sues City of Milwaukee for Racially Biased Stop-and-Frisk Policy

(image via colorlines.com; Courtesy of ACLU of Wisconsin, via Twitter @ACLUofWisconsin)

article by Kenrya Rankin via colorlines.com

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Wisconsin just filed a law suit against the city of Milwaukee alleging that the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) routinely and purposely stops and frisks Black and Latinx people with no cause.

Collins v. City of Milwaukee was filed in the Milwaukee Division of the U.S. District Court’s Eastern District of Wisconsin. It names six Black and Latinx residents who were stopped by police without reasonable suspicion as the plaintiffs. But as a class action suit, it seeks redress for every person who has been, or will be, stopped by the MPD since January 7, 2008, plus a subclass that includes all Black and Latinx members of that class.

The suit names the city, Chief of Police Edward Flynn and the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission as defendants. Filed yesterday (February 22), the suit alleges that at Flynn’s direction, the department violates the protections that should be afforded citizens of color via the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. And the ACLU says those violations are increasing: the number of traffic and pedestrian stops tripled in the years after Flynn became the top cop, jumping from 66,657 in 2007 to 196,434 in 2015.

To read more, go to: ACLU Sues City of Milwaukee for Racist Stop and Frisk Policy | Colorlines

ACLU Receives $24 million in Donations Last Weekend in Response to Trump’s “Muslim Ban”

(photo via washingtonpost.com)

article by Katie Mettler via washingtonpost.com

In the weeks after the Nov. 8 election, when Donald Trump secured a surprise victory to become president of the United States, the American Civil Liberties Union received so much money in online donations — more than $15 million — that an official with the 100-year-old organization called the flood “unprecedented in our history.”

That was before Trump had even sworn the oath of office. Eleven days ago he did just that, then spent his first week as president signing executive orders and making good on some of his campaign promises, spurring massive protests across the country and the world — about women’s rights, the environment and what Trump calls his “extreme vetting” of travelers to the U.S. from seven predominantly Muslim nations.

Amid the swift and intense backlash, the ACLU seems once again to be benefiting directly.This weekend alone, the civil liberties group received more than $24 million in online donations from 356,306 people, a spokesman told The Washington Post early Monday morning, a total that supersedes its annual online donations by six times.

In an interview with CNN, the ACLU had a one-word reaction: “Wow.” Before the donations had soared to $24 million, Anthony Romero, ACLU executive director, told Yahoo News he was blown away by the influx.“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Romero told Yahoo News. “People are fired up and want to be engaged. What we’ve seen is an unprecedented public reaction to the challenges of the Trump administration.”

To read full article, go to: The ACLU says it got $24 million in online donations this weekend, six times its yearly average – The Washington Post

Brooklyn Federal Judge Ann Donnelly in Brooklyn Temporarily Blocks Trump’s Muslim Ban

photo via newsone.com

article by Brandee Sanders via newsone.com

U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly of the Eastern District of New York put a temporary ban on an executive order issued by President Donald Trump on Saturday that was put in place to prevent Syrian refugees and travelers from Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S.  According to the Huffington Post, Donnelly declared that the ban “violates the rights to Due Process and Equal Protection guaranteed by the United States Constitution.”

From the Huffington Post:

The American Civil Liberties Union, immigrants’ rights groups and refugee relief organizations had filed the action in federal court Saturday morning on behalf of two Iraqi nationals who were detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, asking for a declaration that the order is unconstitutional and requesting an injunction to prevent its implementation against other travelers who may be equally harmed.

“The petitioners have a strong likelihood of success in establishing that the removal of the petitioners and others similarly situated violates the rights to Due Process and Equal Protection guaranteed by the United States Constitution,” U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly of the Eastern District of New York wrote in her order.

The legal action named Trump in his official capacity as president, as well as the Department of Homeland Security and other high-ranking officials. Although temporary and subject to appeal, it represents the first major constitutional setback faced by the new administration.

ACLU lawyer Lee Gelernt says that the ruling will protect people from other countries who have permission to be in the U.S. “This ruling preserves the status quo and ensures that people who have been granted permission to be in this country are not illegally removed off U.S. soil,” he told the Huffington Post.

To read more, go to: Brooklyn Judge Temporarily Blocks Trump’s Muslim Ban | News One

Airbnb Addresses Discrimination Allegations, Establishes New Operation Policies

The Airbnb logo is displayed on a computer screen Aug. 3, 2016, in London.
The Airbnb logo is displayed on a computer screen Aug. 3, 2016, in London. (CARL COURT/GETTY IMAGES)

article by Breanna Edwards via theroot.com

Earlier this year, home-rental site Airbnb came under heavy scrutiny after black users of the platform took to social media to describe the discrimination they faced. Most noted that after renters saw their photos, which were included in the booking request, they were denied accommodations. The hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack popped up on Twitter and went viral. The company needed to do some serious soul-searching.

“Our mission is to allow people to belong anywhere … and that this issue, the issue of racial bias [or] discrimination on the platform, was a big problem and antithetical to our actual mission,” Christopher Lehane, head of global policy and public affairs for Airbnb, told The Root. “We needed to address this, but to be able to address it, we needed to understand it, consult with the experts [and] listen to people who’ve been on the front line for decades to help us … understand what the challenge was and then, from there, what we can do.”

That aha moment led the company to tap powerhouses such as former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Holder, along with Laura W. Murphy—former director of the ACLU Legislative Office, who currently serves as a senior adviser to Airbnb—launched a review into the company’s practices with the intention of confronting and dealing with explicit and implicit discrimination and bias.

“What Airbnb made clear from the beginning is that they didn’t want to simply follow the law … but to do that which would exceed what was legally required,” Holder told The Root. “Change comes when you have tough, honest conversations, which I think Airbnb has done; when you have genuine self-reflection, which I think they have engaged in; and when you come up with proposals for bold action.”

Holder, along with civil rights attorney John Relman and Airbnb staffers, spoke with civil rights leaders for input and ideas about policy changes to address the problems and also to position the company to deal with any future grievances.

“The first time I spoke to the executives at Airbnb, there was a palpable demonstration to be willing to have these uncomfortable but absolutely necessary conversations about how these issues arose … and I thought they were interested in solving the problem and not just responding to public criticism,” Holder said.

On Thursday the company is releasing a report detailing its findings and how it plans to remedy the issues that the victims of discrimination have faced. In doing so, Airbnb acknowledges its own lack of workforce diversity, saying that it plans to create a “new comprehensive plan to recruit and retain a diverse workforce.” According to the report, some 9.64 percent of all its U.S.-based employees come from underrepresented communities. The company hopes to increase that number to 11 percent by the end of 2017.

Part of that plan includes implementing the “Diversity Rule,” which mandates that all vacant senior positions at the company include candidates from underrepresented backgrounds before any hiring is permitted to go forward.

Continue reading “Airbnb Addresses Discrimination Allegations, Establishes New Operation Policies”

Obama Administration to End Federal Use of Private Prisons

A government report found that violent incidents were more common in private prisons. (GETTY IMAGES)

article via bbc.com

The U.S. Justice Department will phase out use of privately owned prisons, citing safety concerns. Contracts with 13 private prisons will be reviewed and allowed to expire over the next five years .”They do not save substantially on costs and … they do not maintain the same level of safety and security,” Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said explaining the decision.

The majority of US prisoners are held in state-run prisons. On Wall Street, the stocks of private prison companies declined sharply after the news was announced.  By Thursday afternoon, Corrections Corporation of America stock had plunged by nearly 50%.  An Inspector General’s report released this month found that private prisons saw higher rates of violent incidents and rule infractions in comparison with government-run institutions.

Jonathan Burns, a spokesman for the Corrections Corporation of America, told BBC News that the report contained “significant flaws” and that other studies have shown their facilities “to be equal or better with regard to safety and quality”. David Fathi, who directs the National Prison Project for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) told BBC News that the decision could have a trickle-down effect on state and local prisons, where more than 90% of U.S. prisoners are held.

To read more, go to: US to end federal use of private prisons – BBC News

U.S. Court of Appeals Rejects Strict North Carolina Voting Law Targeting African Americans

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 1.02.04 PM
(Screenshot via nbcnews.com)

article by Zachary Roth via nbcnews.com

A federal appeals court on Friday struck down the heart of a North Carolina voting law seen as the strictest in the nation, finding that Republican lawmakers intentionally discriminated against African-Americans when they passed it.

A divided 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the measure’s provisions “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.”

The ruling is just the latest court win for voting rights advocates. A different federal appeals court ruled this month that Texas’s voter ID law is racially discriminatory and must be softened. And a district court softened Wisconsin’s ID law, too, though that decision is being appealed.

North Carolina Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore said of the ruling, “we can only wonder if the intent is to reopen the door for voter fraud, potentially allowing fellow Democrat politicians like Hillary Clinton and Roy Cooper to steal the election. We will obviously be appealing this politically motivated decision to the Supreme Court.”

The voting law imposed a voter ID requirement, cut early voting opportunities, eliminated same-day voter registration and banned out-of-precinct voting, among other provisions.

The court found that by 2013, African-American registration and turnout rates had reached near parity with those of whites. But weeks after the Supreme Court weakened the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder in 2013, Republicans said they planned to enact an “omnibus” voting law.

The court’s ruling continued: “Before enacting that law, the legislature requested data on the use, by race, of a number of voting practices. Upon receipt of the race data, the General Assembly enacted legislation that restricted voting and registration in five different ways, all of which disproportionately affected African-Americans.”

Attorney General Loretta Lynch praised the appeals court’s decision.

“I am pleased that the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has struck down a law that the court described in its ruling as ‘one of the largest restrictions of the franchise in modern North Carolina history,'” she said. “The ability of Americans to have a voice in the direction of their country — to have a fair and free opportunity to help write the story of this nation – is fundamental to who we are and who we aspire to be.”

To read full article, go to: http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/appeals-court-strikes-down-strict-north-carolina-voting-law-n619836

Angelenos Take Center Stage at 1st Ever Politicon, Are Building a Movement to Stop Police Violence

black lives matter
Black Lives Matter Caravan For Justice: Saturday, October 10th, 12:30 – 1:30 p.m., Politicon, Los Angeles Convention Center, 1201 S Figueroa St, Independence Hall (151)

Los Angeles, C.A. – What is being hailed as the first ever comic-con of politics and entertainment, Politicon is holding its inaugural convention at the Los Angeles Convention Center this weekend in the city with the largest, most militarized, and most violent policing forces in the nation. The lineup includes big names like Trevor Noah, James Carville, Newt Gingrich, and Ann Coulter – as well as Los Angeles based human rights activists, formerly incarcerated people, and the families of loved ones who have been killed by law enforcement. 

Los Angeles based organizations including Dignity and Power Now, Black Lives Matter LA, and the ACLU of Southern California will be joining the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in a Politicon event hosted and moderated by Tourè this Saturday in order to highlight how the families of the victims of police brutality are the ones leading the charge for change, introduce the key players, and encourage people to join the fight. This cumulative event also serves as the finale to the Caravan For Justice, a week-long statewide tour that has been guiding Californians on how to utilize the ACLU’s Mobile Justice app and rallying together those affected by state violence to take action.

“The people affected by state violence have always been leading this movement,” says Director of Health and Wellness Mark-Anthony Johnson of Dignity and Power Now. “This Saturday we’ll be center stage at Politicon, just as we’ve been center stage at the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the police commission for years. We got civilian oversight of the sheriff’s department. We passed AB 953. We’re getting stronger and we’re not going anywhere.” 

For more information please visit dignityandpowernow.org.

article by Caravan for Justice via newsone.com

EDITORIAL: What We Can Do to Move Forward From Charleston

Nine victims of the Charleston church shooting. Top row: Cynthia Hurd, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton Middle row: Daniel Simmons, Rev. Depayne Middleton Doctor, Tywanza Sanders Bottom row: Myra Thompson, Ethel Lee Lance, Susie Jackson Via Facebook and Getty Images
Nine victims of the Charleston church shooting. Top row: Cynthia Hurd, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton Middle row: Daniel Simmons, Rev. Depayne Middleton Doctor, Tywanza Sanders Bottom row: Myra Thompson, Ethel Lee Lance, Susie Jackson (Photos via Facebook and Getty Images)

First and foremost, all of us at Good Black News are heartbroken over the loss of the nine precious lives taken this week by senseless, hateful murder at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and our sympathies and prayers go out to the families and loved ones most acutely affected by this domestic terrorism.  Even though you may already know the names of the unintended martyrs, they bear repeating, and often, so we never forget: Rev. Clementa PinckneyCynthia HurdSusie Jackson, Tywanza SandersSharonda Coleman-SingletonDaniel L. SimmonsEthel Lee LanceMyra Thompson, and Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor.

We call them martyrs because they are now part of the unfortunately long lineage of named and unnamed African-Americans subjected to racially-motivated violence in the United States.  From enslaved persons who died on slave ships in the Middle Passage, to persons enslaved in the colonies, to Reconstruction, to the Jim Crow era, to the Civil Rights movement and up through today, the pattern is plain: you are black, you are hated, your life doesn’t matter, you die violently.

I have spent a lot of time this past week reading and watching coverage of this national tragedy, not only to gather as much information as possible, but also to process and attempt to think of the right words to share on how to move forward in a positive manner, as that is overriding philosophy and mission of Good Black News.  I do think it is crucial first, however, to talk about WHERE this happened, HOW it happened and WHY it happened.

South Carolina State Capitol Building (top left); Mammy magnets for sale to Charleston tourists (top right); bumper sticker souvenir (bottom)
South Carolina State Capitol Building (top left); Mammy magnets for sale to Charleston tourists (top right); bumper sticker souvenir (bottom)

As everyone knows by now, South Carolina so proudly claims its antebellum history that the Confederate flag still flies on its State Capitol building.  The battle at Fort Sumpter in 1861, right outside of Charleston, which occurred not long after South Carolina seceded from the Union, set off the Civil War.  Tourist shops in Charleston casually sell merchandise such as mammy magnets and confederate bumper stickers, which are symbols of racial oppression to my eyes, but symbols of “the good ol’ days” to others.

The other “where” in this situation is specifically the Emanuel AME Church.  The history of this church is steeped in the fight for African-Americans to create their own place of worship and the freedom to express their humanity.  One of the church founders, Denmark Vesey, attempted in 1822 to organize a slave rebellion from this space, which, although thwarted, created mass hysteria among the slave owners in the Carolinas and lead to the church being burned.  It has been rebuilt several times and stands as a consistent symbol of black pride, resistance and fortitude.  So the choice of this place for this action makes it clear this was a targeted, racially-motivated attack.

CHARLESTON, SC - JUNE 18:  People stand outside the Emanuel AME Church after a mass shooting at the church that killed nine people on June 18, 2015, in Charleston, South Carolina. A 21-year-old suspect, Dylann Roof of Lexington, South Carolina, was arrersted Thursday during a traffic stop. Emanuel AME Church is one of the oldest in the South. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
CHARLESTON, SC – JUNE 18: People stand outside the Emanuel AME Church after a mass shooting at the church that killed nine people (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

On Wednesday night, in the spirit of fellowship, church members welcomed Dylann Roof, the unfamiliar stranger who would become their assassin, to join and participate in their bible study.  He took advantage of their compassion and open hearts to forward a racist agenda that is centuries-old and still pervasive in the DNA of this country, and particularly so in South Carolina and the South.  In the 1960s, people didn’t call the killers of Emmett Till, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr., or the four African-American girls in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama “mentally insane.”  They called them what they were – Klan members and/or racists.  So regardless of whether or not Roof has mental problems, his racism and desire for racial supremacy is the primary motivation behind his actions.

So, clearly knowing all of that, what are some positive, actionable ways we can move forward as a nation, in our communities and in our personal lives from this horrific event?

  1. Petition/protest/vote for removals of all symbols of oppression and hate from government buildings, streets, tourist centers and shops.
  2. Contribute to the donation fund set up for the families of the victims of the Emanuel AME shootings.
  3. Support/join organizations such as the NAACP, ACLU or the National Urban League, that are dedicated to protesting racial injustice and empowering minorities.
  4. Educate all children of all colors and creeds about the racial history of the United States from slavery to the present and call it what it is. Visit civil rights museums.  Read, know and learn the history.   Just as Jewish peoples around the world make sure each generation “never forgets” the Holocaust – so should we never forget about American racial injustice.
  5. Keep calling out and protesting current injustices – we need to keep filming and reporting and being sources for unjust police actions, racial disparities in the workplace and even in our personal conversations.  Let’s not be Roof’s friend Joseph Meek Jr.,who now regrets not checking his friend more thoroughly about his racist vitriol.
  6. Love. Find forgiveness in our hearts just as the family members of several of the victims are doing for the assailant.  Meeting hate with hate solves nothing.

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson, Good Black News Founder and Editor-in-Chief