Archive | April, 2012

Arizona’s Anti-Immigrant Law: What’s at Stake When the Supreme Court Hears SB 1070

26 Apr

This week the infamous Arizona law that legalized racial profiling and criminalized individuals who do not carry proof of their citizenship status at all times reached the U.S. Supreme Court. The ACLU, along with a coalition of civil rights organizations, have challenged Arizona’s SB 1070 because it invites unequal treatment of individuals by law enforcement, conflicts with federal law and violates basic individual freedoms.

This info graphic helps to explain what is wrong with the Arizona law, where copycat laws were passed in other states and what’s at stake in the SCOTUS decision. Read on for the latest update from the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. Report from the Supreme Court: SB 1070:

On April 25,  the Supreme Court heard arguments in one of the big cases of the term, Arizona v. United States. Several justices, including Justice Stephen Breyer, expressed serious concerns about the law’s impact on civil liberties, as they recognized that it might lead to prolonged detention while an officer investigates a person’s  immigration status.

In response to those serious civil liberties concerns, Arizona was forced to retreat. Arizona was not defending S.B. 1070 as it was written by the state legislature, but rather an entirely different and fictional law that merely notifies the federal government that it has detained someone whose legal status it deems to be suspect.

But make no mistake: even that narrow reading of the law would result in a serious violation of the rights of citizens and lawfully present immigrants. As we heard in court today, there’s no easy way for a citizen who happens not to have their ID on them to avoid being detained for an hour or more on the side of the road while an officer demands that they prove their right to be here.

Tellingly, Arizona did not step up to defend what the state legislature actually did in S.B. 1070. The law, on its face, implements an Arizona state immigration enforcement policy of zero tolerance and maximum harshness. But the federal immigration law that Congress passed recognizes that immigration status is actually far more complicated under federal law. Under federal law, the executive branch can permit someone who is applying for asylum, or seeking other kinds of legal status, to stay in the U.S. while their status is decided. But under Arizona law, they are subject to detention and criminal prosecution, and they take that risk every time they leave their homes and venture out onto Arizona’s streets.

Chief Justice John Roberts asked today whether Arizona v. United States is a case about racial profiling. And although the federal government lawsuit is about the limits on state power, racial profiling is a central issue in the case, as chief law enforcement officials around the country have stated. It’s simply impossible to enforce laws like S.B. 1070 without relying on false and illegal stereotypes. And because that’s true, U.S. citizens and lawful immigrants are caught in the dragnet. Ultimately, it’s not only up to the Supreme Court to decide if S.B. 1070 will stand. The American people must decide whether we will tolerate a nation with such invidious laws.

This blog post was written by Cecillia Wang from the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project and was originally posted on the ACLU’s Blog of Rights.

No Sanctuary From Public Criticism: Meet Philip Krejcarek, Photographer

12 Apr

What would you do if you were an artist whose work was suddenly the topic du jour of a conservative talk show radio? Meet Carroll University Professor Philip Krejarek, a photographer who faced public criticism for his exhibit, “Sanctuary.”

While the subjects in Krejcarek’s  2008 show involved the female form and themes of early Catholic concepts of adoration of women, Belling described the art as being lewd and criticized Krejcarek’s work as being anti-Christian. Belling’s primary complaint was that the public relations official from Carroll University wouldn’t make comments about the exhibition. But despite criticism on talk radio, the university stood by Professor Krejcarek and allowed the exhibition to continue.

You can hear a ten-minute clip from one of Belling’s shows on the topic here:

Philip Krejcarek has been a Professor of Art at the Waukesha’s Carroll University since 1977 and has been the Chairman of the Department of Visual and Performing Arts since 2009. He holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and has published books of his work including the 1997 “Digital Photography: A Hands-on Introduction” and the 2003 “An Introduction to Digital Imaging.” His collections have been featured in the Milwaukee Art Museum; Haggerty Museum of Art, Milwaukee; Denver Art Museum; Wustum Museum of Fine Arts, Racine and across the City of Milwaukee.

Gallery Night in the Historic Third Ward: Meet Professor Krejcarek

The ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation will host an event featuring three Milwaukee area artists who have faced some form of censorship or limits on their expressive work.  The “Eye of the Beholder: Censorship in Art from Eden to Milwaukee” event will be held on Friday, April 20, from 5:00 to 10:00 p.m. Artists include Philip Krejcarek as well as Anne Kingsbury and Fahimeh Vahdat. Learn more about the artists on our blog.  The Robert Marshall Building is a sponsor of the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation event.

The Gallery Night event is free, but donations in support of the civil liberties litigation and public education work of the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation are welcome. You can RSVP to the event or share it on Facebook. For more information or to be a sponsor of the event, contact Marion Ecks at mecks@aclu-wi.org.

The ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation is a non-profit civil liberties and civil rights organization working to protect the rights of all Wisconsinites. For more on the work of the American Civil Liberties Union and Foundation of Wisconsin, visit our webpage, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @ACLUofWisconsin and @ACLUMadison. Read more news and opinion on civil liberties in Wisconsin on the Forward for Liberty blog.

ACLU of Wisconsin to Recognize Censored Milwaukee Area Artists on Gallery Night

9 Apr

The ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation will host an event featuring three Milwaukee area artists who have faced some form of censorship or limits on their expressive work.  The “Eye of the Beholder: Censorship in Art from Eden to Milwaukee” event will be held on April 20, 2012. You can RSVP to the event or share it on Facebook .

As a part of the Historic Third Ward’s Gallery Night in Milwaukee, the ACLU of Wisconsin’s open house will be among several galleries in the Robert Marshall Building that will be open to the public between 5:00 and 10:00 p.m. The Robert Marshall Building is a sponsor of the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation event.

About the artists:

Anne Kingsbury has been the Executive Director of the Woodland Pattern Book Center in Milwaukee since 1979. She holds a Master of Fine Arts degree and has over forty years of experience in arts creation, education and program management. Among her honors, Kingsbury has received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, three grants from the Wisconsin Arts Board, a grant from the Milwaukee Artists Foundation and an artist’s fellowship from Art Futures. She is a mentor of visual arts with the Milwaukee Artists Resource and Network (MARN).

Her mixed media art often centers on both the human form and traditionally feminine objects such as dolls and quilts. Kingsbury offers drawings, but much of her hand-sewn work reflects both the organic nature of the materials and represents what is natural in the human form. Her work came under fire early in her career when her contract as an art professor at Nebraska’s Hastings University was not renewed in 1969 based on criticism that her anatomically correct dolls were “too sophisticated” for the university audience. She faced similar censorship at a faculty art show in Flint, Michigan when her dolls would “disappear” when funders visited the show.

Fahimeh Vahdat is an Iranian-American, Baha’i artist who has lived in exile in the United States since 1981 after she was forced to leave her country after the Revolution of 1979. As an educator, artist and activist, her work embraces themes of freedom but also includes topics on human rights, female oppression, violence against women and children and problems in the prison systems, especially in Iran. Currently she is on sabbatical from the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD), is a mentor artist in residence at RedLine Milwaukee, and the Milwaukee Artists Resource and Network.

Last June Vahdat’s 10-foot tall painting entitled “A Prison Called Iran” from her “Freedom Series” was censored at the Intercontinental Hotel’s M Gallery in Milwaukee which was a part of the annual MARN group exhibition of mentor and mentees’ work. Due to the outline of a female nude figure, the work was considered inappropriate for general display at the hotel. An article by Mary Louise Schumacher in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel gives some background behind the decisions made by the Marcus Corporation and the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design. In response, Vahdat turned her work facing the wall and had a silent performance at the show’s opening to protest the censorship. The painting “A Prison Called Iran” is being shown to the public for the first time at the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation’s Gallery Night event. This year’s MARN exhibition will be held at Cardinal Stritch University in July.

Philip Krejcarek has been a Professor of Art at the Waukesha’s Carroll University since 1977 and has been the Chairman of the Department of Visual and Performing Arts since 2009. He holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and has published books of his work including the 1997 “Digital Photography: A Hands-on Introduction” and the 2003 “An Introduction to Digital Imaging.” His collections have been featured in the Milwaukee Art Museum; Haggerty Museum of Art, Milwaukee; Denver Art Museum; Wustum Museum of Fine Arts, Racine and across the City of Milwaukee.

Krejcarek’s photos in his series “Sanctuary” came under fire from a talk-show radio host in 2008. While his photos’ subjects involve the female form and themes of early Catholic concepts of adoration of women, talk show host Mark Belling criticized Krejcarek’s work as being anti-Christian. Ultimately Carroll University did not respond to Belling’s calls for comment and university leadership allowed Krejcarek’s work to remain on display.

The ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation successfully defended the Milwaukee Gay Arts Center in 2010 when the play “Naked Boys Singing” was shut down by police. Most recently, the ACLU of Wisconsin came out in support of Madison-area political cartoonist Mike Konopacki after he came under fire for distributing a satirical, parody press release in response to a state lawmaker who pressured a university department to cancel a politically-themed art show.

The Gallery Night event is free, but donations in support of the civil liberties litigation and public education work of the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation are welcome. You can RSVP to the event or share it on Facebook . For more information or to be a sponsor of the event, contact Marion Ecks at mecks@aclu-wi.org.

Help support the civil liberties news and opinion you get on Forward for Liberty. Join the ACLU of Wisconsin today or make a tax-deductible donation to the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation. Your contribution keeps Forward for Liberty, action alerts via email and social media, and other nonpartisan watchdog efforts going.

Milwaukee Police Strip Searches Allegations Are Cause for Investigation

3 Apr

If you read about unauthorized police strip searches in the newspaper or saw the story on television news, you might have been shocked to hear about these allegations of misconduct. Today, the ACLU of Wisconsin responded to the allegations in the op-ed below and described not only why the news is a threat to the privacy rights and civil liberties of Milwaukee residents but also what steps must be taken to remedy the problem.

On March 28, the ACLU of Wisconsin sent an open records request to Milwaukee Police Districts 3, 5, and 7 for copies of their strip search authorization forms (PS-7). While as of the date of this blog post the requests have been received, we don’t expect results on cases that are still open including those cases with allegations of police misconduct.

If you have your own concerns about these allegations, the Police and Fire Commission will have a meeting on April 5 at 5:30 p.m. which includes a public comment period (number 8 on the agenda). The public comment period will follow the reports on police use of force in 2010 and the discharge report on firearms in 2011.

This op-ed was featured in today’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Another View: MPD should use episode to improve relationships – Chris Ahmuty, Executive Director, ACLU of Wisconsin

“Milwaukee residents living in every neighborhood deserve high quality professional police service.   No one, regardless of where they live, should have to put up with police misconduct.  Recent allegations that several officers in District Five carried out unauthorized strip searches and illegal body cavity searches need to be investigated carefully, fairly, and comprehensively. 

“While it is important to determine whether or not individual officers violated department policies or state law or civil rights laws, it is equally important that the department evaluate its own policies, practices, and strategies to see if they may have undermined police service and civil liberties. 

“It is in the interest of residents and the department that the department responds to the alleged incidents of police misconduct with candor, transparency, and self-evaluation.    Without violating the due process rights of the officers involved and regardless of the outcome of investigations into their conduct, the department can learn from this controversy and provide better service in the future.  

“The department must consider what impact its own policies, practices, and strategies may have on the delivery of police services. 

“For instance, incredible as it sounds, if the officers were truly ignorant of the policies or the differences between a pat down or frisk, a strip search, or a body cavity search, then the department has to explain how its training and supervision failed.   Is their training forgotten or ignored when officers detain residents on our public streets?  

“The department must also evaluate its proactive policing strategy to see if it makes incidents of police misconduct more likely to occur.  Under this strategy the Milwaukee Police Department made 240,000 traffic and subject stops in 2010.  Traffic stop figures through October 2011 show the department will have made a similar number of stops in 2011, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 

“This extraordinary number of stops obviously increases the opportunity for interactions between officers and residents to go awry.  What’s more as Milwaukee Police Chief Flynn told the newspaper, “Yes, of course we are going to stop lots of innocent people.”   The department should evaluate what message it is sending to officers when its proactive policing strategy disregards a person’s innocence.   The message at best says civil liberties are expendable. 

“The department should also revisit its decision to create the Gang/Drug Unit when the Metropolitan Investigations Division was formed in August, 2010.  It appears that the implicated officers including a sergeant belonged to District Five’s anti-gang unit.  Many police managers across the country have moved away from special gang and drug units, especially after revelations of widespread abuse by such units of the Los Angeles Police Department.  Perhaps, there is a legitimate use for such units, but it appears the type and level of supervision given to Milwaukee’s anti-gang unit was deficient. 

“Finally, because metropolitan Milwaukee is a hyper-segregated area along racial and income lines, one cannot address policing without addressing civil rights.  In the light of the department’s inability to use traffic stop data to identify possible racially biased policing, it is imperative that the department clarify how it is identifying biased officers.  We don’t know if these District Five officers are biased, but bias could be a contributing factor.  The department needs to be more aggressive in identifying and remedying individual or systemic bias.

“The Milwaukee Police Department has an opportunity to evaluate its policies, practices and strategies following the allegations regarding misconduct by officers from District Five.  If it simply investigates the officers, it will be setting Milwaukee up for more frustration.   Chief Flynn has the capacity to exercise leadership.  He can demonstrate that the department will address possible systemic problems.  If so, this controversy may be an opportunity to further improve police community relations.”

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel also authored this editorial calling for a check on police abuses of power. The news was originally reported in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and on TMJ-4.

ACLU of Wisconsin goes to residents for information concerning Milwaukee police strip searches

2 Apr

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin has been trying to investigate the policies and practices of the Milwaukee Police Department regarding strip searches.  The ACLU’s investigation began after the MPD in March acknowledged that Milwaukee police officers may have been conducting unauthorized strip searches and illegal body cavity searches on the public streets.

On March 28, 2012 ACLU made a public records request to the MPD for copies of documents such as orders, memos and report that may help us to assess whether the department is following its own strip search and body cavity search procedures.  The department has not yet produced the documents requested or denied our request.

Because of the delay on the part of MPD and the public interest in this matter, the ACLU of Wisconsin has begun seeking alternative sources of information.

The ACLU is asking citizens for copies of any strip search authorization reports that MPD may have issued to them.  MPD procedures require MPD give the subject of a strip search a copy of a Strip Search Authorization Report.  The police ask the subject of the search to sign and affix a fingerprint to the report.

The ACLU is publicizing their request by means of social media and flyers distributed on the street, in public places, and through community organizations. While it is impossible to know how many Strip Search Authorization Reports the MPD issued by asking citizens, it should be possible to learn relevant information about MPD search practices.  The ACLU has promised to respect the privacy of those who submit copies of forms. The ACLU hopes that more information from the MPD will be forthcoming.  The ACLU will share the facts regarding any possible pattern or practice of improper strip searches with appropriate authorities and the public.

Milwaukee residents living in every neighborhood deserve high quality professional police service

2 Apr

Milwaukee residents living in every neighborhood deserve high quality professional police service. No one, regardless of where they live, should have to put up with police misconduct. Recent allegations  that several officers in District Five carried out unauthorized strip searches and illegal body cavity searches need to be investigated carefully, fairly, and comprehensively. While it is important to determine whether or not individual officers violated department policies or state law or civil rights laws, it is equally important that the department evaluate its own policies, practices, and strategies to see if they may have undermined police service and civil liberties.

It is in the interest of residents and the department that the department responds to the alleged incidents of police misconduct with candor, transparency, and self-evaluation. Without violating the due process rights of the officers involved and regardless of the outcome of investigations into their conduct, the department can learn from this controversy and provide better service in the future.

The department must consider what impact its own policies, practices, and strategies may have on the delivery of police services.

For instance, incredible as it sounds, if the officers were truly ignorant of the policies or the differences between a pat down or frisk, a strip search, or a body cavity search, then the department has to explain how its training and supervision failed. Is their training forgotten or ignored when officers detain residents on our public streets?

The department must also evaluate its proactive policing strategy to see if it makes incidents of police misconduct more likely to occur. Under this strategy the Milwaukee Police Department made 240,000 traffic and subject stops in 2010. Traffic stop figures through October 2011 show the department will have made a similar number of stops in 2011, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

This extraordinary number of stops obviously increases the opportunity for interactions between officers and residents to go awry. What’s more as Milwaukee Police Chief Flynn told the newspaper, “Yes, of course we are going to stop lots of innocent people.”  The department should evaluate what message it is sending to officers when its proactive policing strategy disregards a person’s innocence. The message at best says civil liberties are expendable.

We pointed out in an op ed to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last month that the department should also revisit its decision to create the Gang/Drug Unit when the Metropolitan Investigations Division, formed in August, 2010. It appears that the implicated officers including a sergeant belonged to District Five’s anti-gang unit. Many police managers across the country have moved away from special gang and drug units, especially after revelations of widespread abuse by such units of the Los Angeles Police Department. Perhaps, there is a legitimate use for such units, but it appears the type and level of supervision given to Milwaukee’s anti-gang unit was deficient.

Finally, because metropolitan Milwaukee is a hyper-segregated area along racial and income lines, one cannot address policing without addressing civil rights. In the light of the department’s inability to use traffic stop data to identify possible racially biased policing, it is imperative that the department clarify how it is identifying biased officers. We don’t know if these District Five officers are biased, but bias could be a contributing factor. The department needs to be more aggressive in identifying and remedying individual or systemic bias.

The Milwaukee Police Department has an opportunity to evaluate its policies, practices and strategies following the allegations regarding misconduct by officers from District Five. If it simply investigates the officers, it will be setting Milwaukee up for more frustration. Chief Flynn has the capacity to exercise leadership. He can demonstrate that the department will address possible systemic problems. If so, this controversy may be an opportunity to further improve police community relations.

If you have been the target of racial profiling in Milwaukee or in Wisconsin, tell the ACLU of Wisconsin your story.