Archive | May, 2010

Take Action: Dane County Board to Vote on Racial Disparity Action Team

19 May

It’s no secret that Wisconsin has a real problem with the arrest and incarceration of a disproportionate number of people of color. Wisconsin is often cited as being among the top states with disproportionate minority incarceration, even when compared to neighboring states like Minnesota and Illinois. The capital city and Dane County are no exception.

When Governor Doyle created a statewide task force to research and address the problem back in May of 2008, the group’s work culminated in a report issued by the Office of Justice Assistance on racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Dane County’s Office of Equal Opportunity created a task force of their own and issued their own report about the problem on the local level.

We often hear stories from people who contact the ACLU because they feel they were subject to racial profiling, police abuse or discriminatory treatment by the criminal justice system. And each person’s story stays with us while we try to navigate a sometimes frustrating system of task forces and reports. But systemic change happens one task force meeting and one page of a report at a time. And Dane County is poised to take one step forward in taking real action on the problem of disproportionate minority incarceration.

On Thursday, May 20, the county board will consider a resolution accepting the Dane County Task Force on Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System and create a Recommendation Implementation Team. The meeting begins at 7:00 p.m. in room 201 of the City-County building in Madison. Dane County residents are welcome to attend and register in support of Resolution 235, 09-10 on this issue.

This is an important step in the work of local leaders to do something about the many systemic problems that result in the disproportionate minority incarceration rate in Dane County. An implementation team with teeth is needed to improve police practices, allow for common sense prosecution and sentencing alternatives (especially for juvenile offenders), improve the complaint resolution process, and set up reentry programs to stop the revolving door for people who could reoffend.

A copy of Thursday night’s meeting agenda can be found online (PDF). More information on the Dane County Office of Equal Opportunity Task Force, their research and final report with recommendations for action can also be found on their website.

If you live in Dane County, please contact your county board supervisor in support of Resolution 235, 09-10 on creating a county implementation team on racial disparities in the criminal justice system. You can find your board supervisor’s contact information on the board’s website.

Take Action: Support the ACLU’s Lawsuit Against the Arizona Racial Profiling Law

17 May

A lot of people are outraged about Arizona’s new racial profiling, “show me your papers” law. And today, the American Civil Liberties Union is taking action.

Just a few hours ago, the national ACLU went to federal court to block this discriminatory law from taking effect.

You can add your name to our list of supporters today. To help you show your public support for reversing this law, we’ll send you a free “What Happens in Arizona, STOPS In Arizona” bumper sticker.

Racial profiling is a deeply offensive affront to the American values of justice and fairness. And using race to demand that people produce “papers” to prove who they are is a police-state tactic that is completely unacceptable in America. If we don’t stop this law now, similar ones could spread across the nation. Already, state lawmakers in at least 10 other states have promised to bring similar bills to their legislatures.

We need to first stop this law in Arizona and then continue to work to prevent such bills from ever passing in Wisconsin.

That’s why the national ACLU is taking Arizona to court, along with our partners the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the National Immigration Law Center, and a number of other civil rights groups.

Under the new law, Arizona police will be required to ask people they stop for their citizenship papers based on “reasonable suspicion” that they are in the country unlawfully. And by leaving “reasonable suspicion” undefined, the law leaves police officers little choice but to act on appearance and language, inviting a new wave of rampant racial profiling. Find out more about the facts on the new Arizona law on-line.

Today, our lawyers took the first legal step to stop this law. You can read a copy of our complaint on-line. And we’ll be organizing on the ground in Arizona, training volunteer lawyers to help people defend themselves against racial profiling. We won’t stand by while this law transforms Arizona into a place where anyone can be forced to “show papers” when they are stopped by police just because of how they look or talk or dress.

Racial profiling is unconstitutional, unacceptable and un-American. But, we’ll only stop extremism and injustice by acting together to end them.

We need you on board. Can we count you in?

For justice,
Anthony D. Romero
Executive Director

Remember – we can’t do it without your help!
Don’t forget to support the ACLU in our work to fight racial profiling in Arizona, in Wisconsin and across the country.

ACLU Legal Observers: Witnessing History

11 May

On May 1st, 2010, supporters of the rights of immigrants and workers took to the streets in cities across the United States in support of comprehensive immigration reform and repealing Arizona’s new racial profiling law. At the large marches in Milwaukee and Madison, ACLU volunteers were wearing bright yellow t-shirts that said “Legal Observer” or “Observador Legal” and handed out information on the rights of protesters.

ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation’s legal observers are volunteers who are witnesses of First Amendment rights at protests. After training new legal observers on the rights of demonstrators and how to be effective and efficient witnesses, volunteers go out into the field to monitor protests from start to finish.

In Milwaukee on May Day, march organizers said that over 35,000 people took part in the massive protest. With a large team of volunteer legal observers, the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation was able to distribute around 10,000 “Know Your Rights with Law Enforcement” brochures with information for participants about their right to protest and how to deal with police encounters.

Observers did not witness any civil liberties violations, but at one point a fire raged in a dumpster near the starting point of the march. Legal observers helped organizers steer the crowd to safety while Milwaukee District 2 Officer Robert Velez acted bravely and quickly to move the flaming dumpster away from the building to prevent a larger fire from spreading.

In Madison, legal observers marched with the May Day crowd from Brittingham Park to the Capitol. Madison Police did an excellent job rerouting traffic down W. Washington and the crowd was orderly as it marched past downtown businesses, houses with Mifflin Street revelers, and into the Farmers Market on the square. No arrests were reported.

In order to document potential violations of constitutionally protected free speech, each legal observer carries their trusty notepads, cameras, cell phones or video cameras. By remaining politically neutral during these events, we guarantee the rights of ALL to assemble and express themselves – regardless of their opinions. From hometown meetings to Tea Party rallies, immigration protests, tuition protests and sit-ins over workplace bias, the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation volunteers are watching, educating and advocating.

Worried you’re not qualified? Legal observers in Wisconsin are of all faiths, ages and races and have volunteered on foot, bicycle, car and wheelchair. Previous experience? Students, teachers, parents, children, artists, mechanics, lawyers, laborers, musicians, waitresses, businesspeople and retirees are all welcome. So if you have a desire to protect our freedoms and see history being made as you go, contact us.

On Mother’s Day, Do Mom a Favor – Take Action to Ratify CEDAW for Women’s Equality Worldwide

9 May

Happy Mother’s Day from the ACLU of Wisconsin! Today, you can do your mom and women around the world a favor….

CEDAW – The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women is the international treaty dedicated to gender equality. The U.S. played a major role in drafting the treaty and President Carter signed it in 1980, but we are one of only seven countries that has not ratified CEDAW.

Let’s make 2010 the year we of ratification. For the first time, there is a strategic, well-resourced coalition leading the effort, and we have strong support within the current administration and the US Senate. But getting 67 Senators to vote yes to ratification wont be easy and well need your help over the next 5-7 months.

Young people from Milwaukee created this video to help spread the word.

Please do your part to help:
Go to the ACLU’s action page on CEDAW to contact your Senators and urge them to ratify this treaty in 2010. You can also upload a video response to the ACLU of Wisconsin’s video to support CEDAW – forward it to your friends and keep the word going.

Visit the ACLU’s national page on CEDAW for more information. Or check out or for updates on this movement.