Dissent is patriotic.

We here at the American Civil Liberties Union take that statement as an axiom. Indeed, the ACLU adopted it as a slogan years ago, and you’ll be seeing and hearing it more often as we navigate the currents of fear and hate roiling our nation.

Dissent is patriotic. Three simple words that go to the very heart of American values. It is a concept so crucial to our democracy that it is enshrined in the First Amendment. Dissent is patriotic is a bulwark against the totalitarian conceit that dissent is treason.

This bedrock principle — "the right to protest for right," as Martin Luther King, Jr. described it in his final speech 49 years ago — is the basis for the ACLU’s mission to protect and defend the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. It underlies everything you'll read about in this annual report, and so much more.

Throughout our nation's history, the way forward has always begun with the powerful words, "I disagree" — uttered defiantly in the face of injustice to our neighbors, our media, our lawmakers, and, yes, even our president.

Today, those words inform our work to reform police practices, and to stand up for the dignity of the LGBTQ community. They give voice to the immigrants struggling to stand up to a growing wave of resentment. They stand firm against those who prefer privilege for a few over the rights of all.

With your continued support, the ACLU of Southern California will build on the efforts of the past year and prepare for the dangerous and uncharted waters ahead. As Edward Snowden said at our 2016 Bill of Rights Dinner, "Don't be afraid of what comes next — be ready."

Read the 2015-2016 ACLU SoCal Annual report