Archive | August, 2012

Do Four People Make a Rally? ACLU of WI Asks in Response to Miller-Erwin Letter Exchange

31 Aug

On August 28, Wisconsin State Senator Mark Miller sent a letter to Capitol Police Chief David Erwin expressing his concerns that the citizens of Wisconsin should have a free and open access to the Capitol building. In a letter of response by Capitol Police Chief David Erwin on August 30, Chief Erwin outlines why he believes permit requirements for political protests are reasonable.

Ultimately the ACLU of Wisconsin believes the new rules issued by the Wisconsin State Department of Administration, including the requirement for groups as few as four people to secure a permit for a “rally… for the purpose of actively promoting any cause,” are not reasonable. Particularly if the rules are applied to the Solidarity Sing Along which takes place at a reasonable time (the hours between noon and 1:00 p.m. are defined in the DOA’s rules as not being normal working hours) and place such as in the rotunda, where state of Wisconsin has long allowed the public to hold rallies of all sizes.

“Chief Erwin said the permit process has been in place for decades,” said ACLU of Wisconsin Communications Director Stacy Harbaugh. “However, I have been organizing volunteer legal observers to witness protests at the Capitol over the past six years and it has been my experience that Capitol Police have asked for voluntary compliance in filling out permits and in practice have only required permits for protests that require extra staffing, closed streets, access to building electricity and other logistical needs. There has typically been reasonable accommodation for protests large and small, planned or spontaneous.”

The Constitution allows “reasonable time, place and manner” regulations. But such restrictions on the use of space must be content-neutral. By requiring permits for “rallies” of four or more people, the DOA and Capitol Police must look at the content of the event to determine whether or not a group in the Capitol is a “rally” promoting a cause versus a gathering of four people who want to talk about where to get lunch.

In addition, any restriction must be narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest. Chief Erwin suggests that permits are required for police to adequately accommodate public safety interests, but it is unreasonable to suggest that a group as small as four would overwhelm the police force. Further, the First Amendment requires and the DOA’s own rules allow for defined, spontaneous events. It is the responsibility of the Capitol Police to have staffing plans in place to have the flexibility to protect the safety of all announced and unannounced visitors to the building.

The participants of the Solidarity Sing Along have worked with the Capitol police and staff to accommodate multiple users of the Capitol rotunda. This relationship can and should continue to meet the needs of police to make narrowly tailored, content-neutral space management decisions.

As for the public safety concerns outlined in Erwin’s letter, we believe it is the responsibility of the Capitol Police to ensure that the Capitol building is both a safe place to work and for demonstrators to engage in peaceful speech activity in the rotunda.  To threaten to enforce a permit requirement against peaceful, cooperative protesters on the basis of safety concerns arising from the alleged actions of a few individuals would punish those engaging in protected speech activity. If criminal harassment or intimidation is occurring against Capitol workers or singers alike, it is the responsibility of police to address it, not crackdown on peaceful protest.

The ACLU of Wisconsin will continue to coordinate volunteer legal observers to be witnesses of events at the Capitol over the weekday noon hour and monitor the enforcement of administrative rules.

ACLU Report Finds Paul Ryan Light Years Away from Civil Liberties – news from ACLULibertyWatch.org

17 Aug

The following blog post was taken from an August 11 post on  ACLU Liberty Watch, a website of the ACLU Liberty Watch 2012 campaign being run by the American Civil Liberties Union. Visit aclulibertywatch.org to learn more about the ACLU’s civil libertarian take on all of the news surrounding the Presidential election campaigns. 

In response to Mitt Romney’s announcement of his vice presidential pick of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the American Civil Liberties Union Liberty Watch 2012 campaign released a brief report that reveals an appalling civil liberties record for Ryan.

The report finds that Ryan, the congressman representing Wisconsin’s 1st District, holds almost uniformly harmful views on five key civil liberties issues including a humane immigration policy, LGBT equality, reproductive rights, torture and indefinite detention and fair voting access. The report is based on the white paper released by ACLU Liberty Watch 2012, which can be viewed here.

The report was also cited in a recent opinion piece in The Nation where writer Ben Adler called Rep. Ryan out for not really following Ayn Rand’s philosophies on freedom when it came to his staunchly social conservative agenda.

“Paul Ryan may end up a heartbeat away from the presidency but he’ll be light years from civil liberties,” said Anthony D. Romero, ACLU executive director. “Paired with Romney’s already-abysmal record on civil liberties, Ryan’s positions only take this ticket further from the vision of our founding fathers.”  Romero also issued a statement about how Vice Presidential hopeful Ryan would have a plan to unravel civil liberties.

The report found that Ryan held anti-civil liberties positions across all five issue areas.  Below are some highlights from the report.

On immigration, Ryan voted in favor of the Secure Fence Act, a bill that authorized the building of a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border. On LGBT equality, he voted against repealing the military’s discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. In 2011, Ryan voted to reinstate the D.C. abortion ban and the Global Gag Rule, defund Planned Parenthood, and eliminate funding for Title X family planning programs. In addition, he believes discriminatory voter ID laws are important and improve integrity in elections.

Rep. Paul Ryan’s positions:  These positions were taken from the candidate’s public statements, published positions and actions taken as an elected official, including his most recent voting records, where applicable.
On Immigration:
  • Believes efforts should be focused on border security and that pursuing the DREAM Act at this time would be a “serious mistake” (2012).
  • Voted in favor of the Secure Fence Act, a bill that authorized the building of a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border (2006).
On LGBT Equality:
  • Voted against repealing the military’s discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy (2011).
  • Supports the 2006 amendment to the Wisconsin constitution banning marriage equality (2006).
  • Voted in favor of the Federal Marriage Amendment (2004, 2006).
On Reproductive Freedom:
  • Voted to reinstate the D.C. abortion ban and the Global Gag Rule, defund Planned Parenthood, and eliminate funding for Title X family planning programs (2011). 
  • Cosponsored a bill that exempted any employer from providing contraceptive coverage as part of their employees’ health care and opposed the Obama administration’s compromise to require insurance companies to cover contraception (2011).  
  • Cosponsored and voted to pass the Protect Life Act (2011). 
  • Cosponsored and voted to pass the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (May 2011). 
  • Voted to prohibit federal funding for abortion care training in health care centers. (May 2011) 
On Torture and Indefinite Detention Policy:
  • Voted against defense legislation that authorizes the president to send the military anywhere in the world to imprison civilians without charge or trial (2011).
On Voting Rights:
  • Believes discriminatory voter ID laws are important and improve integrity in elections (2012).

ACLU Liberty Watch 2012 is the voice for the Constitution in the this year’s presidential election. Follow Liberty Watch on Twitter: @ACLULW, or ‘Like’ the Facebook page: Facebook.com/ACLULibertyWatch.

ACLU of Wisconsin & Midwest Environmental Advocates Fight For Faith-Based Groups, Black Health Coalition in Transit Lawsuit

7 Aug

Yesterday, two organizations supporting racial and environmental justice – the Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin (BHCW) and Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope (MICAH) – filed suit in federal court in Madison, seeking to block the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s efforts to spend $1.7 billion to rebuild and expand the Zoo Interchange at the same time transit is being slashed. The lawsuit challenges the decisions of WisDOT and federal transportation officials to approve the project without including any transit component.

“One of MICAH’s biggest concerns is the extreme and unacceptable rate of joblessness in the central city, for persons of color in general and African-American men in particular,” stated Rev. Willie Brisco, MICAH President. “We all know that people of color depend on transit to get to work at all. We need more transit – to more places where the jobs are – not just highways that don’t help these members of our community get to work.”

The Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin follows World Health Organization policies and principles holding that you cannot have healthy people in a sick community,” added BHCW President/CEO, Dr. Patricia McManus. “Allowing multibillion-dollar highway projects to move forward while transit moves backwards reduces the opportunities to access health care, education, and other needs, as well as employment. And expanding highways while cutting transit also hurts our air quality, which is already much worse this year than it was last year.”

BHCW and MICAH are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin Foundation and by Midwest Environmental Advocates, both non-profit organizations that support environmental justice. Download a copy of the complaint.

The ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation is a non-profit civil liberties and civil rights organization working to protect the rights of 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.

Midwest Environmental Advocates is a non-profit environmental law center that works for healthy water, healthy air, healthy land and healthy government for this generation and the next. MEA believes that every citizen has the potential to make a difference. Learn more about MEA on their website, midwestadvocates.org.

 

A is for ACLU and Avenue Q

2 Aug

Tickets on sale now…

The ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation, in partnership with Skylight Music Theatre, presents a special preview of the Milwaukee premiere of Avenue Q!

Join us on Thursday, September 20 for an evening of irreverent fun and free expression. Thursday night is the final, full-dress rehearsal for Avenue Q and a limited number of seats will be sold to benefit the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation.

When – September 20, 2012:

6:00 p.m. – Reception – cocktails and ample hors d’oeuvres

7:30 p.m. – Avenue Q in the Cabot Theater

Where – Skylight Music Theatre:

Broadway Theatre Center, 158 N. Broadway, Milwaukee WI 53202

Tickets for the September 20 event are on sale now! Buy tickets online or if you cannot make the event, consider making a donation to the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation.

Find more about the Skylight Music Theatre’s production of Avenue Q on their website.

Winner of three Tony Awards including Best Musical and written by the composer of The Book of Mormon, Avenue Q is a hilarious adult-themed spoof of Sesame Street. Part flesh (human), part felt (puppets) and packed with heart, Avenue Q tells the story of Princeton, a recent college grad who moves into a shabby NYC apartment in the only neighborhood he can afford, all the way out on Avenue Q. He soon discovers that the residents of his building are not your ordinary neighbors. Together, Princeton and his new friends struggle to find decent jobs, stable relationships and a purpose in life, but ultimately realize the real world isn’t so bad after all.

This event is made possible by:

Birch Lodge Fund of

the Cream City Foundation

Pam Kriger

 Johnson & Pabst

LGBT Humanity Fund

of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation

Host Committee:

Ross Draegert & Robert Starshak

Paul Fairchild

Pam Kriger

Jennifer Morales

Joseph Pabst

Louis Weisberg

Paul Williams