Southern Californians and ACLU members from around the country met in this rainy city last week to protest the president's abuse of power as he signed away Americans' constitutional rights. On Tuesday, President Bush approved the Military Commissions Act, which allows him to indefinitely hold people with charge, take away torture protections, and deny detainees the right to hearings.
"It's historic, and it's horrifying," said ACLU/SC executive director Ramona Ripston. "In the name of fighting terror, the president is defying American values and laws guaranteeing equal justice to all."
Ripston stayed late Tuesday to hear ACLU/SC staff attorney Catherine Lhamon and the next generation of student activists, including Williams v. California plaintiff Alondra Jones (pictured above). As a junior at Balboa High School in San Francisco, Jones faced textbook shortages, class cuts, and a Spanish curriculum that consisted of English-language movies such as "Rush Hour." "I felt then and I still feel now that equal education doesn't start and end with me," she said. "I have younger siblings who are in the schools that were affected by the lawsuits and I couldn't dream of them facing the same struggles.... Because they were younger, and I was older, I was here to fight for them."
Member Derek Chan of Montebello said it was "inspiring to me seeing these younger people advocate for their rights." Click here for a link to the webcast.
"Southern Californians understand the skewed priorities of this administration," Ripston said. "They are rolling back rights when they should be expanding opportunity."
Keston Barker, a member from San Juan Capistrano who works in Long Beach, and his wife, Coleen, knocked on their congressman's door Tuesday, as President Bush signed the Military Commissions Act.
Flying back to Long Beach, Barker saw the ACLU mentioned "six or seven times" on his seatback TV screen. "One person on MSNBC said, 'People will look back and say where were you the day the president signed away our habeas corpus rights and got the right to torture,' " he recalled. "I was in the office of a congressman when he was signing it. At least I can say I was doing something."