Martin Luther King Jr. was a radical leader who demanded an end to racial injustice, criticized the complicity of white moderates, and advocated for a radical redistribution of political and economic power. His leadership was buttressed by the work of organizers, Black women and men, LGBTQ people of color, students, and activists spanning age, ethnicity, race, and income levels.

In commemoration of his legacy and the Civil Rights Movement, we've put together some highlights of the work we're doing to promote racial justice, stop discrimination based on race and ethnicity, and ensure equal opportunities for communities of color.

Reforming California’s Racially Biased Money Bail System

Money bail lets the rich buy their freedom while preying on everyone else, especially communities of color. Because people of color are over-policed, arrested, and detained more often than white people, they also face higher bail amounts. The results of even just a few days in jail can be devastating — people can end up losing their jobs, their homes, and their children. Read about the work we’re doing to reform our broken bail system.

ACLU Combats Profiling and Jailing of Latinos

Sergio Carrillo, a U.S. citizen, was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and detained for three days despite him repeatedly informing him of his citizenship status. The ACLU of Southern California filed a lawsuit and won a substantial settlement for our client. We are also representing Guadalupe Plascencia, a U.S. citizen who was unlawfully detained by the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department (SBSD) and ICE.

Racial Disparities in Officer-Involved Shootings in Anaheim and Kern County

Our reports Anaheim Police Department Use Of Force Report 2017 and Patterns & Practices of Police Excessive Force in Kern County revealed a disparate impact of police shootings on low-income communities of color. We are actively working in these communities to increase police transparency and accountability by advocating for civilian review boards and federal oversight.

Supporting Those Who #TakeAKnee

While some school districts outside California have attempted to discipline students for engaging in such non-disruptive protests such as taking a knee during the national anthem, we sent letters to the California Department of Education and other education organizations providing guidance on students' right to protest.

At our annual Bill of Rights Dinner, we honored pro football player Colin Kapernick with the Eason Monroe Courageous Advocate Award for kneeling in protest during the national anthem at football games as a statement against police brutality, particularly against Black people and other people of color.

Advocating for Lawful, Respectful, and Humane Treatment Inside Orange County Jails

Based on a two-year investigation, we released our Orange County Jails report detailing inhuman conditions and a pattern of neglect by sheriff and county officials. The full 108-page investigative report is the result of more than 120 interviews with present and former individuals incarcerated in the OC jails and an extensive review of the recommendations of seven grand juries over the last decade during Sheriff Sandra Hutchens's tenure.

The report includes a demand that Sheriff Hutchens step down from her position. That same afternoon of the report's publishing, Hutchens announced that she will be retiring and will not run for reelection when her term ends this summer.

Campaign to Reform District Attorney’s Office

District Attorneys (DAs) are among the most powerful elected officials in local government, and for decades have been the primary drivers of America's devastating and racially biased mass incarceration problem. The ACLU of California launched the Meet Your DA campaign to raise awareness about the powerful role district attorneys play in California's 58 counties, to increase accountability and transparency within the offices, and help reform our racist criminal justice system.

Facebook Surveillance

An investigation by the ACLU of California revealed that law enforcement agencies across the state were secretly acquiring social media spying software to monitor and target protesters and activists of color. Partnering with the Center for Media Justice and Color of Change, the ACLU successfully lobbied Facebook and Instagram to prohibit surveillance companies from using their platforms to target Black and brown people.

The ACLU is proud to honor Dr. King by renewing our commitment to fight for racial and economic justice throughout California.

Date

Sunday, January 14, 2018 - 6:15pm

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Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter -Martin Luther King Jr. at the march on Washington

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Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter -Martin Luther King Jr. at the march on Washington

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2017 was a hard year. But in a thousand ways, big and small, you showed up. You loved, you learned, you resisted — and you cleared the way for a better year in 2018.

We've got to remember that the future is ours to build. And this year, local action in California will have a huge impact. While the Trump administration spreads hate, we can spread hope. It's up to all of us to reimagine a country that includes all people in the promises of the Constitution.

❯❯ Join us for our webinars on critical civil liberties issues facing our state and the nation.

  • Voting Rights
    Tuesday, Jan. 16, 6-7:30 p.m.

    California has one of the lowest rates of voter registration and voter turn-out in the country. 2018 is a critical year for ballot measures, local elections like the DA races, and of course, changing who holds the keys to power. In this webinar, we'll give you the resources you need to get all eligible California voters to the polls, starting now!
  • Reproductive Justice & Sex Education
    Tuesday, Jan. 23, 6-7 p.m.

    We're in a critical moment. Sexual harassment and abuse is being both challenged and normalized. Discrimination against LGBTQ people is on the rise. Here in California, we have the power to make a change. Our schools are required to teach sex ed that addresses healthy relationships and consent and that challenges stereotypes about gender and sexual orientation. But many school districts need extra encouragement to provide the required instruction. They need to hear from you. In this webinar, you will learn how to be a parent advocate for sex education in your district.
  • Criminal Justice Reform
    Tuesday, Feb. 6, 6-7 p.m.

    Right now, a powerful coalition of conservative law enforcement is targeting California mayors and city councils with a cynical misinformation campaign. Their goal is to increase support for mass incarceration and roll back the clock on criminal justice reform. We need you to counter their lies with the truth. In this webinar, we'll set you up with the skills you need to advocate for local initiatives that truly promote public safety and healthy communities.

❯❯ Register to receive the webinar log-in information.

In 2018, let's resolve to reimagine what's possible. The future is ours to build!

Date

Friday, January 5, 2018 - 10:15am

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California poppies with the text: The future is ours to build

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Philip Alston, the​ United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, travels the world to investigate horrific living conditions. On a recent fact-finding trip, he found people barely surviving in vermin-infested homeless encampments, a devastating scarcity of affordable housing and municipalities that make it a crime to be homelessness, as if that could be a cure. He even spotlighted the fact that dental care was so scarce for the poor that he saw people who had lost all their teeth.

But Alston was not reporting on a so-called third-world country. His blistering report was the result of his visits to several parts of the United States, including Southern California.

“Instead of realizing its founders’ admirable commitments, today’s United States has proved itself to be exceptional in far more problematic ways that are shockingly at odds with its immense wealth and its founding commitment to human rights,” Alston said in a statement last month. “As a result, contrasts between private wealth and public squalor abound.”

Alston’s full report will not be issued until the spring, but his 14-page statement presented after his U.S. fact-finding tour painted a portrait of a nation in the grip of a moral failure that threatens to undermine its democracy.

He put the blame squarely on public officials who engage in a “dual narrative” about American society in which “the rich are industrious, entrepreneurial, patriotic and the drivers of economic success. The poor are wasters, losers and scammers.”

It’s a narrative that has justified deep cuts in aid programs, pushing more and more people into extreme poverty and homelessness, while funneling billions to those atop the economic ladder. The attitude spreads like a contagion in the hearts and minds of ordinary people who, having absorbed this hateful message, respond to poverty and homelessness with a hardened heart rather than empathy and moral outrage.

Alston was especially disheartened by conditions on Skid Row in Los Angeles only blocks away from million-dollar condos. “Homelessness on this scale is far from inevitable and again reflects political choices to see law enforcement rather than low cost housing, medical treatment, psychological counseling and job training as the solutions,” he said. “But the futility of many existing approaches was all too evident as I walked around some of the worst affected areas.”

While in L.A., he also heard from several civil society organizations in a forum organized by the ACLU of Southern California. Some representatives of these groups spoke of municipalities in wealthy Orange County enclaves where the innocent act of sleeping or resting in public has been criminalized, even when people literally have nowhere else to go.

As the result of these “crimes,” municipalities extract money in the form of fines, fees and bail, forcing people to subsidize the apparatus that oppresses them. That is, if they can pay — many are simply thrown into an endless cycle of debt and jail time.

Our political leaders on both sides of the aisle have, for the most part, either avoided the topic of poverty or engaged in cynical hate speech that dehumanizes and blames poor people for the deprivation they experience. Alton’s statement makes an impassioned argument that ending poverty and protecting the basic human rights of people in the U.S. will require a moral reckoning.

“Rather than responding to homeless persons as affronts to the senses and to their neighborhoods,” he said, “citizens and local authorities should see in their presence a tragic indictment of community and government policies.”

How we respond to these issues going forward will tell us much about the nation. And now, with even the U.N. involved, the whole world is watching.

Date

Sunday, December 31, 2017 - 2:00pm

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UN Special Rapporteur visits Skid Row

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WATCH: UN Special Rapporteur @Alston_UNSR investigates homelessness & poverty in the U.S.

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UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty Philip Alston turing Skid Row in L.A.

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Author:
Eve Garrow

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