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Forward For Liberty Blog Has Moved!

25 Sep

Missing the Forward for Liberty blog? That’s because it has moved!

You can now find the most recent Wisconsin civil liberties news and opinion from the ACLU of Wisconsin on our brand new website: The Forward for Liberty blog now lives with other information such as how to become a member of the ACLU of Wisconsin, what kinds of community education programs we offer, and the news from our legal department.

Supporting us has never been easier. Visit today to donate and keep our important watchdog efforts going.

Summer of Peace Preview: Civil Liberties at the Heart of Milwaukee’s ACLU Public Art Student Alliance

20 Jul

ACLU Public Art Student Alliance (PASA) members work on their float.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin Foundation will join with Milwaukee community organizations to mark the tenth annual Summer of Peace event on Friday, July 27, 2012.

Rooted in a peace-arts program, the Summer of Peace offers teens workshops on conflict resolution and culminates in a free peace rally.  Read more about this year’s event in the Milwaukee Community Journal. The event has a website and a Facebook page with more information and updates.

The event will have youth exhibitions of their workshop projects including mini-activities on their awareness campaigns. Participating organizations will have information booths and the event will include food, musicians, artists, crafts and other entertainers. The All City Parade (Milwaukee Public Theatre) will join with the Summer of Peace to sponsor a colorful parade from Sherman Park to Washington Park involving community-created giant puppets, dancers, musicians and stilt-walkers. The event begins at 10:00 a.m.

Katie Jesse and Paige Coe (as Violin), are a part of the section “Moving to the Beat of Your Own Drum”

In light of the attention to the tragic shooting of Florida teen Trayvon Martin as well as recent violence experienced by Milwaukee youth, the Summer of Peace offers a timely opportunity to address racism, civil rights and liberties, and the violence experienced by urban youth. As Milwaukee continues to lead the nation in segregation and disproportionate incarceration of people of color, the city needs a call to peace and unity.

Founded in 2002 by Tanya Cromartie and Fidel Verdin, Summer of Peace 365 involves facilitators who work year-round with teens on character and leadership building, conflict resolution and building compassion. Participants are trained as community advocates who are empowered to act as positive agents of change in their communities. Through the work of a diverse coalition of organizations, artists, poets, entertainers, community leaders, civil libertarians, restorative justice facilitators, racial justice experts, anti-bullying trainers and professionals will work together to address youth empowerment.

Organizations involved in “All-City Summer of Peace Coalition” include the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation,  Boys and Girls Clubs, Children’s Outing Association, COA Youth and Family Center, Medical College of Wisconsin’s Violence Prevention Initiative, Milwaukee Public Theatre, Milwaukee Mask and Puppet Theatre, Peace Action, Running Rebels, Safe and Sound Inc., Sherman Park Neighborhood Association, True Skool, UNCOM, United Neighborhood Centers of Milwaukee, Urban Ecology Center, Washington Park Partners and others.

ACLU Public Art Student Alliance arts interns learn how to craft visual images through paper mache.

Community support is needed to stage the Summer of Peace event. To help with the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation public arts program, contact Youth and Program Director Emilio De Torre at or (414) 272-4032 x 223. For more information about the event, please contact Tanya Cromartie-Byrd at (414) 326-0507 or to be a sponsor, donate materials, volunteer, register for the rally or participate in the pre-rally activities.

Wisconsin Impact: SCOTUS Decision on Arizona and Immigration

25 Jun

Today the Supreme Court of the United States struck down three parts of Arizona’s anti-immigration law as unconstitutional. But the court did not strike down the discriminatory “show me your papers” provision which condones racial profiling and allows law enforcement to ask for immigration documents from lawfully stopped people. The decision is mixed, but ultimately sends a strong rebuke to the state of Arizona for overstepping its legal authority in the realm of federal immigration enforcement.

Despite the mixed decision by the Supreme Court today, everyone in America still has basic rights when interacting with law enforcement. This video explains what rights we all have under the constitution:


The focus of the court’s decision was whether or not Arizona’s law was preempted by the U.S. Constitution, which gives the federal government – not the states – authority to regulate immigration. In three areas, the court said it was unconstitutional for states to criminalize working while undocumented, criminalize not being registered or carrying immigration documents, and for law enforcement to make warrantless arrests of people solely on the basis of a suspicion of their undocumented status. Other states that have written or passed similar laws must pay attention to the SCOTUS decision and repeal or stop attempts to pass anti-immigration laws.

In Wisconsin, Representative Don Pridemore (R-Hartford) drafted a bill that included a “show me your papers” provision, language allowing law enforcement to make warrantless arrests, and also criminalized the refusal or failure to show proof of legal status which could lead to detention. Today’s Supreme Court decision should show Wisconsin lawmakers that attempts to authorize state police to enforce federal immigration law run afoul of the constitution.

“The Wisconsin Legislature wisely did not hold hearings on a bill similar to Arizona’s,” said ACLU of Wisconsin Executive Director Chris Ahmuty. “While the Supreme Court decision rules out much of the Wisconsin proposal, states that allow ‘show me your papers’ provisions will open the floodgates to further litigation and will hurt law-abiding citizens in Wisconsin. The ACLU of Wisconsin will collect stories and evidence of racial profiling and any effort by law enforcement to detain residents unlawfully. The discussion on Arizona’s law will not end today.”

The national ACLU has amassed an $8.6 million war chest to mount an aggressive response against Arizona’s SB 1070 and other states’ racial profiling laws. It will help underwrite continued litigation against these measures, lobbying efforts and public education programs. Any laws that encourage racial profiling, undermine local law enforcement’s priorities and sow a climate of fear that pits neighbor against neighbor will be stopped. Sign the petition online. 

The infographic below outlines what parts of the Arizona law are unconstitutional as well as what other states have passed similar legislation. You can share this by linking to:

Frequently Asked Questions About Voting Rights: June 5 Recall Elections

21 May

Photo ID is not required at polling places on the June 5, but the potential for confusion over new voting rules in Wisconsin could be a problem on the coming recall Election Day. The ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation is distributing nonpartisan factsheets in response to voters’ questions.

Download the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation’s Voting Rights Factsheets on our website (PDF):

You Have the Right to Vote: Wisconsin

Conozca Sus Derechos de Voto: Wisconsin

Students: You Have the Right to Vote!

During the most recent election, attorneys staffing the Wisconsin Election Protection hotline answered questions about photo ID requirements, signing poll books, registration requirements, and changing polling places due to redistricting. On June 5, voters can call 1-866-OUR-VOTE to report problems, ask questions or get help to protect their right to vote.

The ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation is distributing nonpartisan “Know Your Voting Rights: Wisconsin” guides to clarify some of Wisconsin’s new voting rules. As part of the national ACLU’s “Let Me Vote” campaign, the ACLU will be leading a Voter Empowerment Campaign in Wisconsin and across the country to educate citizens about their rights and help them overcome the unfair barriers states have created to suppress the right to vote.

The one-page document describes answers to the most commonly asked questions about how to vote in the June 5 recall election including early and absentee rules. More information about the special requirements for student voters can be found on the Government Accountability Board’s website. A full list of municipal clerks is also available online – go directly to clerks for your absentee ballots, individual questions about the status of your registration or if you have problems with voting early.

As noted above, photo ID is NOT required for the Recall Election. Two state courts have blocked the law requiring photo ID to vote based on lawsuits filed by the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin and the NAACP and Voces de la Frontera; the state is appealing those decisions. The federal lawsuit that the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation, the national ACLU and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty filed in December, claiming that the photo ID law unconstitutionally burdens voting rights and discriminates against African-American and Latino voters, is also pending.  

Read more about the ACLU’s federal lawsuit against Voter ID online:

Your Right to Record Police: News on US DOJ Opinion in Baltimore Case

21 May

Anyone reading the news about the lawsuit brought by the ACLU of Maryland over the right to videotape police activity? People have the right under the First Amendment to photograph or videotape the activity of police in public places, including when they are placing people under arrest. After Christopher Sharp witnessed his friend being arrested, he used is cell phone to videotape what he thought was aggressive police behavior. Baltimore police then confiscated his camera and deleted all of his videos, including ones of his family.

Most recently in Wisconsin, activists at the State Capitol have received citations for recording arrests of other activists peacefully holding signs in the legislative galleries. State troopers and Capitol police should not point to rules barring photography as a justification for arresting people for documenting arrests.

The latest news is that the federal Department of Justice is standing up for your right to record. Here is more from Gabe Rottman of the national ACLU’s Washington D.C. Legislative Office (adapted from the ACLU’s Blog of Rights):

We haven’t pulled punches in our criticism of the Holder Justice Department, so it’s especially important that we give credit where credit is due. In support of an important case brought by the ACLU of Maryland defending the right to record, the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division forcefully and unequivocally endorsed our view in an unusual (but welcome!) 11-page letter to the Baltimore Police Department.

The letter provides extensive guidance in the context of a settlement conference in a suit against the BPD alleging that Baltimore police officers confiscated and deleted video from the plaintiff’s mobile phone after he used it to record officers arresting his friend. The DOJ had filed a “Statement of Interest” earlier in the case, urging the court to find a First Amendment right to record the police, and a violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments when the police seize, search, and destroy recordings without a warrant and due process. As the DOJ explained there:

The right to record police officers while performing duties in a public place, as well as the right to be protected from the warrantless seizure and destruction of those recordings, are not only required by the Constitution. They are consistent with our fundamental notions of liberty, promote the accountability of our governmental officers, and instill public confidence in the police officers who serve us daily.

The DOJ’s move is particularly welcome given what promises to be a spring and summer of protest around the country including last weekend’s NATO summit in Chicago and significant protests expected among other events, including the GOP and Democratic presidential nominating conventions in Tampa and Charlotte, respectively.

At all of these events, protesters, the press, and bystanders alike will be carrying sophisticated smartphones that permit high-quality video and audio recordings of police activities. Not only will this monitoring heighten trust in the authorities, it will discourage police abuse and provide a record of any such abuse (which protects both law enforcement and protesters alike). Additionally, and importantly for folks following H.R. 347, the right to record helps document any attempt by the Secret Service and other law enforcement agencies to discriminate against protesters because of the content of their protest (think opponents of the Afghanistan war or Tea Party members), or to sequester inconvenient protesters in “free speech zones” far away from the cameras.

This issue was also echoed in a recent New York Times editorial supporting our right to record.

In Wisconsin, if you have had your camera confiscated by police or if you have been the subject of harassment or intimidation by police over recording their public activity, contact the ACLU of Wisconsin’s legal department to file a complaint. Citations against protesters documenting arrests at the Capitol have been dropped, but rules drafted by the Department of Administration and by the state Senate and Assembly relating to public spaces in the Capitol remain a concern. The outcomes of the June 5 recall election may make a significant impact on how the Department of Administration will recognize free speech rights at the Capitol in the future. And a legislative solution is needed to have gallery rules evolve to include non-disruptive uses of cell phones including cameras, video and texting.
TAKE ACTION: Sign on to the ACLU’s letter to US Attorney General Eric Holder urging the US DOJ to protect our right to record, not just in Baltimore, but across the country. Sign on to the letter here: Please share this action widely.

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

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.

Protest Rights at the Capitol for State of the State

25 Jan

We first posted the “Top 5 Things to Know at Protests” on Feb. 16, 2011. The basics haven’t changed much, despite last year’s Capitol lockdown and the new rules restricting the rights of demonstrators issued by the state Department of Administration in December.

But as we gear up to send volunteer legal observers to the state Capitol to witness the rallies responding to Governor Walker’s second State of the State address, the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation would like to reaffirm the rights of protesters to peaceably assemble at our Capitol. We want to remind activists about the top five things to remember when demonstrating:

1. Signs with sticks are not allowed in the Capitol building for safety reasons. New rules prohibit signs that attach to walls or that lean, so keep the banners hand-held. Newer prohibitions against musical instruments, including drums, may also be enforced.

2. Peaceful demonstrations are allowed, so long as they don’t violate other people’s rights. However ignoring police orders is not allowed. The police may not shut down a demonstration entirely, but may put reasonable limits on the time, place and manner of a protest, including closing the Capitol building after the State of the State speech event is over. If police issue orders to protesters to leave an area or to otherwise conform to announced rules, protesters who ignore orders could be subject to citation or arrest.

3. Be a good observer. Document any problems at demonstrations with notes (time, location, details) and especially with cameras. The National Lawyers’ Guild has a guide for trained legal observers that is an excellent resource on how to document protests (PDF). Be friendly to the ACLU observers who will be there in yellow t-shirts or safety vests.

4. An individual under arrest should say nothing to law enforcement without their attorney present. Please see the ACLU of Wisconsin Guide for Demonstrators (PDF) for more details on what is constitutionally protected activity. Criminal behavior is not protected by the First Amendment. For more information on interacting with law enforcement, please see our bust cards for Milwaukee (PDF) and Madison (PDF).

5. Protests in public spaces like sidewalks and in the Capitol within a reasonable time, place and manner are allowed. In general, protesters have the most rights in outdoor public spaces like public sidewalks and the Capitol grounds. As long as the protest is peaceful and does not block traffic, most protest activities are allowed in such spaces.

As protests continue, we remind everyone to take care of themselves, cooperate and continue to exercise their free speech rights without problems or incidents.

If you or your organization face restrictions on your right to demonstrate within these guidelines, contact the ACLU of Wisconsin Madison Area Office at (608) 469-5540 or give your contact information to an ACLU legal observer.

Capitol Crackdown an Abuse of Power

9 Nov

ACLU of WI Supports Citizens’ Right to Silently Dissent and Document Government Activity in Galleries

The citations issued during this legislative session by law enforcement to protesters holding signs and videotaping events at the Capitol represent another chapter in an almost year-long story of the suppression of citizens’ access to government and the right to free expression and assembly.

ACLU of Wisconsin on rights of assembly, cameras:

“The arrests of peaceful demonstrators in Capitol hearing rooms and galleries bring public attention to the ongoing abuses of power in our state government,” said ACLU of Wisconsin Executive Director Christopher Ahmuty. “And while rules against flash photography and other disruptions may be sensible, the authorities have turned an interpretation of rules into a tool to suppress individuals’ rights to videotape and document our government’s activities. Whether people are videotaping a hearing or documenting arrests by police, a ban on non-disruptive video and camera use makes no sense in the 21st century.”

“There is no doubt the legislature has a legitimate interest in conducting its business efficiently,” said ACLU of Wisconsin Legal Director Larry Dupuis, “but the Constitution demands that First Amendment activity receives the highest degree of protection. It is hard to see how a ban on silently holding signs or peacefully recording activity in Capitol galleries or hearing rooms is necessary to the efficient operation of the legislature. The mere fact that legislators find criticism and transparency inconvenient does not justify the suppression of speech and the gathering of information by Wisconsinites.”

Dupuis said that our country and the State of Wisconsin have always been committed to protecting political dissent to the greatest possible extent. He points to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Terminiello v. Chicago which stated that “speech is often provocative and challenging. It may strike at prejudices and preconceptions and have profound unsettling effects… [T]he alternative would lead to standardization of ideas either by legislatures, courts or dominant political or community groups.’”

Media coverage of protests:

Read more about the murky camera rules in Dee Hall’s article in the Wisconsin State Journal in which she refers to the arrest of Progressive Magazine editor Matt Rothschild (video below – spot the ACLU of Wisconsin legal observer volunteer documenting Capitol arrests with journalists and bloggers)

Videos of the gallery conflict and Assembly floor debate on free speech that happened on Tuesday, October 25 which were posted to the Dane 101 news blog.

Chris Rickert wrote a column for the State Journal where he outlined a brief history of the gallery rules. He wrote that “the state law banning photo-taking and recording ‘in a manner that interferes with the conduct of the meeting or the rights of the participants’ goes back to 1977. Assembly rules banning the use of cell phones and, in certain cases, microphones are 10 years old or more, and Senate rules dating to 2009 or earlier ban signs, cell phone use and photo-taking, among other things.” 

What you can do:

Wisconsinites who care about the First Amendment should contact their legislators and demand modernization of Capitol photography rules and an end to suppression of silent, peaceful protest in the galleries of the “People’s House.”  While there should be limits on protest activity that is disruptive, police enforcement of a ban on a range of items interpreted as “signs” (from a post-it note on the bottom of someone’s foot, notebook papers taped to shirts, doodles on a spiral notebook and copies of the state or federal Constitution) must stop. Camera use, whether it is non-flash still photography or video cameras, should be allowed so that citizens can document their government’s activity. And as cell phone technology advances, policies should evolve to include non-disruptive uses of cell phones including cameras, video and texting.

The ACLU of Wisconsin will also continue, as it has in the past, to dispatch trained legal observers to document announced demonstrations, as resources permit. The next legal observer training in Madison will be on November 16th find the event listing on Facebook or on our website. Contact (608) 469-5540 to find out how to volunteer.

Visit our webpage, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @ACLUofWisconsin and @ACLUMadison. 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.

ACLU of WI, Community Shares and the Center for Change: You Can Support Nonprofit Collabortion in Madison That Works

20 Jul

Did you know that the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation is a member of Community Shares of Wisconsin? Below is an update on the Center for Change, a Community Shares project that we are a part of. You can read more about how the Center for Change encourages collaboration among nonprofits like ours. We are in the midst of a matching gift campaign, so if you are looking for ways to make your donations have a big impact across organizations, check this out. Gifts to the Center for Change will be doubled through August 12!

Support the Emerging Center for Change
The ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation’s Madison Area Office is a proud member of Community Shares of Wisconsin (CSW) and a tenant of the Center For Change, a shared office space that is more than co-location. Tenants are all nonpartisan nonprofits that share resources, space, volunteers and ideas to make Wisconsin better. 

We collaborate to identify common needs and concerns—whether through planned partnerships or spontaneous conversations in the break room.  Volunteer, intern, and staff resources are put to their most efficient use by sharing their time and skills. Our interconnectedness saves on overhead costs and increases our potential to create a stronger social justice movement at the same time.

Help Community Shares of Wisconsin build the social justice movement by supporting the Center for Change. Donate through August 12 and your gift will be matched, thanks to an anonymous donor.  With your help, the Center for Change will become a destination for social justice education and involvement.


Get Inspired: Celebrate CSW’s Anniversary with 40 Ways You Can Create Change
To celebrate Community Shares of Wisconsin’s 40th anniversary, we’ve highlighted “40 Ways You Can Create Change”—40 items you might consider to help our community.  Many of the 40 Ways offer interesting historical information about CSW or our member groups, and all of them offer suggestions for steps you can take.

The first couple of entries:

#1 of 40:  Thank someone who has made a difference for nonprofits.  Community Shares of Wisconsin began in 1971 with a small group of committed people searching for a way to help nonprofits.  Since then–thanks to our founders and to all of our supporters over the years—we have distributed over $13 million! Everyone who has given to the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation through their Community Shares workplace campaigns has made a difference for us: Thank you for every donation that keeps us strong.

#2 of 40:  Support the emerging Center for Change. (See the news item above.)

Check CSW’s website, Facebook, or Twitter updates regularly through the summer and fall to read all of the 40 Ways You Can Create Change.

Chippewa Valley Area ACLU Events in May – Much To Do for Civil Liberties Up North!

28 Apr

The Chippewa Valley is a buzz with events this month! Our civil libertarian friends to the north are invited to check out some of these upcoming opportunities to discuss current issues related to equality and justice,  get some good food and enjoy a north woods style chautauqua.   

Sunday May 1, 2011 – Discussion: The Role of Progressive Spiritual Voices in Wisconsin’s Legislative Debates
Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Eau Claire, 421 S. Farwell St., 10:00 a.m.
When politicians propose legislation with moral and ethical implications, voices of faith in hearings are often limited and do not reflect the diversity of religious groups in Wisconsin. But we know that a commitment to justice isn’t the exclusive realm of one political party or one faith group. We will look at some recent legislative proposals and discuss why they would be of interest to citizens who are committed to justice, equity and freedom. We will identify ways spiritually progressive citizens can identify themselves as a voice of faith and be advocates for liberty in their communities. For more information on the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Eau Claire, visit their website at

Wednesday May 4, 2011 – First Amendment Free Food Festival
UW-Eau Claire Campus Mall
Sponsored by the UWEC’s student chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists, this unique event encourages students to sign away their First Amendment rights in exchange for a free lunch. But there’s no such thing as a free lunch! How long can you give up your freedom of speech in exchange for delicious goodies? It will be a (food) fight to the finish in this celebration of the protection of free speech and a free press. Co-sponsored by the Chippewa Valley Chapter of the ACLU of Wisconsin. RSVP today on Facebook.

Saturday May 21, 2011 – Festival: Fighting Bobfest North
Northern Wisconsin State Fairgrounds, 331 Jefferson Ave., Chippewa Falls, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., free, donations welcome

Fighting Bobfest is having a northern event on May 21, rain or shine. Join the ACLU of Wisconsin’s Chippewa Valley Civil Liberties Chapter’s table and other speakers for the day’s event. Find out more about Fighting Bobfest North on their website.

You can find out more about upcoming events connected to the ACLU of Wisconsin by visiting the events page on our website.

ACLU of WI Milwaukee Open House a Hit on Gallery Night

27 Apr

As a part of Gallery Night in the Third Ward in Milwaukee, the ACLU of Wisconsin hosted an open house that connected our members and local art fans in our brand new space on Friday, April 15 2011.  Several hundred visitors enjoyed the excellent donations of local food and drinks, donated to the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation and learned more about our work.

ACLU of WI Board President Patti Keating Kahn

Community artists were featured both by the True Skool mural in our office and in an exhibit of our newly created bilingual voter education panels which will be used as part of our voter education outreach programming this year. Special thanks to mural artists Andrew Parchman for his ceiling work and Jasmine Barmore and Zen Castillo for their work on our youth center wall which will no doubt inspire our youth rights program participants and staff in the years to come.

Mural artist Zen Castillo
Mural artist Jasmine Barmore

We had great food and drink sponsors:  Triskeles, Transfer Pizzeria/ViaDowner, Aladdin’s Taste of the East, Trocadero, and Walker’s Pint.   We also had some fantastic homemade salsa from our very own Milwaukee Chapter Representative, Charlie Fox. In fact, we heard from a number of people that we had “the best food and drink spread in the whole Gallery Night circuit,” and that the ACLU was the “place to be” on Gallery Night. Thanks so much to our donors who helped make the party a success.

And special thanks to Emily Plagman who has been our special events diva for both the Bill of Rights Celebration and the open house. She’s moving to take a new full-time gig and we will all miss her being a part of the ACLU of Wisconsin team this year. Congrats and good luck Emily!

Emily Plagman with Bill Franson

To see more photos from the event, visit our photo album on Facebook.