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What To Do When You're Stopped By Police - The ACLU & Elon James White

What To Do When You're Stopped By Police - The ACLU & Elon James White

Know Anyone Who Thinks Racial Profiling Is Exaggerated? Watch This, And Tell Me When Your Jaw Drops.

This video clearly demonstrates how racist America is as a country and how far we have to go to become a country that is civilized and actually values equal justice. We must not rest until this goal is achieved. I do not want my great grandchildren to live in a country like we have today. I wish for them to live in a country where differences of race and culture are not ignored but valued as a part of what makes America great.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Byrd Got FBI Documents on Civil Rights Movement - New York Times

Byrd Got FBI Documents on Civil Rights Movement - New York Times:

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Senator Robert C. Byrd obtained secret F.B.I. documents about the civil rights movement that were leaked by the C.I.A. and set off an angry confrontation between the two agencies in the 1960s, according to newly released F.B.I. records.

Mr. Byrd, a Democrat from West Virginia who died in June 2010 at age 92, sought the intelligence because he suspected that Communists and subversives were guiding the civil rights cause, the records show. Decades before he became the longest-serving member of Congress in history, he stalled and voted against major civil rights legislation in the mid-1960s. He also belonged to the Ku Klux Klan as a young man in the 1940s, and the F.B.I. cited that membership while weighing his requests for the classified information, the records show.

“He eventually had a change of heart about a lot of that stuff,” said Ray Smock, a former historian for Congress who now oversees Mr. Byrd’s archives. Mr. Smock said Mr. Byrd’s hard-line belief in law and order played a role in his view of the civil rights movement. Mr. Byrd also repeatedly called his time with the Klan a serious mistake, Mr. Smock said.

The F.B.I. released more than 750 pages from its files, many with words, sentences or entire paragraphs redacted, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by The Associated Press. The records date to the mid-1950s, when Mr. Byrd served in the House. He was elected to the first of his record nine terms in the Senate in 1958.

The documents that revealed the leak, which happened in September 1966, caused outrage among top F.B.I. officials and prompted an internal C.I.A. investigation that singled out two agency employees as the culprits.

The episode damaged Mr. Byrd’s standing with the bureau, though only briefly, the records show. Numerous documents depict him as an outspoken supporter of the F.B.I. and particularly of J. Edgar Hoover, its longtime director, even toward the end of Mr. Hoover’s tenure, as criticism of him mounted.

(Via civil rights law news - Google News)

ACLU‐VT Joins National Effort To Learn Details Of Use Of Automated License Plate Readers

ACLU‐VT Joins National Effort To Learn Details Of Use Of Automated License Plate Readers:

Information Sought on How Cameras are Used and Whether Data is Stored and Retained


CONTACT: (802) 223-6304 or (212) 549-2666,  

MONTPELIER - The American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont has joined ACLU affiliates in 34 other states in sending requests today to local police departments and state agencies for information on how they use automated license plate readers (ALPRs) to track and record drivers' movements.

ALPRs are cameras mounted on patrol cars or on stationary objects along roads - such as telephone poles or the underside of bridges - that snap a photograph of every license plate that enters their fields of view. Typically, each photo is time-, date-, and GPS-stamped, stored, and sent to a database, which provides an alert to a patrol officer whenever a match or "hit" appears. The cameras can snap several thousand plates an hour.  

ALPRs are spreading rapidly around the country, but the public has little information about how they are used to track motorists' movements, including how long data collected by ALPRs is stored and whether local police departments pool this information in state, regional, or national databases. The ACLU hopes to find out if ALPRs are being used as a tool for mass routine location tracking and surveillance and to collect and store information not just on people suspected of crimes but on every single motorist.  

The ACLU-VT has sent three requests as part of the effort. The first is being sent to the Homeland Security Unit of the Vermont Department of Public Safety. DPS receives federal Homeland Security grants, the funding mechanism for many ALPR systems. The request asks for information about how federal grant money is used to pay for ALPR systems, what municipalities in Vermont have received federal grants for ALPR systems, and how ALPR data is shared outside of Vermont. Because the ACLU of Vermont believes that nearly a dozen Vermont cities and towns already have the systems, the request will fill out public knowledge of where ALPR systems are being used and how Vermonters' movement data is handled.  

The second and third requests are to agencies using ALPRs: the Vermont State Police and the Town of Hartford. These requests seek information about what ALPR systems are in use by those agencies, how much data is captured, how long it is stored, and what policies govern the use of ALPRs.

"Freedom of movement is one of our core rights," said Allen Gilbert, ACLU-VT executive director. "The information gathered by ALPRs is legitimate if it's used to solve crimes. But if you haven't committed a crime, information about your whereabouts should not be retained or shared with others. None of us wants to live in a world where we are constantly tracked."

In some states, concerns over ALPRs have caught the attention of state legislators. In Utah, lawmakers complained when the federal Drug Enforcement Administration wanted to install ALPRs along certain stretches of the state's main north-south highway, I-15. Last month the DEA withdrew its request.

"Tracking and recording people's movements raises serious privacy concerns, because where we go can reveal a great deal about us, including visits to doctor's offices, political meetings, and friends." said Dan Barrett, ACLU-VT staff attorney. "We need legal protections to limit the collection, retention and sharing of our travel information, but the first step in obtaining those protections is to determine how extensive the surveillance problem is."

More information about the requests being made is available at The ACLU of Vermont's public records requests are available online at

(Via Latest News)

Saturday, August 04, 2012

ACLU Announces Settlement in “Highway Robbery” Cases in Texas

ACLU Announces Settlement in “Highway Robbery” Cases in Texas:

Consent Decree Reforms Egregious Asset Forfeiture Practices and Rampant Racial Profiling by Police

CONTACT: (212) 549-2666;

NEW YORK – Police in an East Texas city will no longer enrich their coffers by seizing assets from innocent Black and Latino drivers and threatening them with baseless criminal charges, under a settlement reached today with the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU settled a class-action suit, pending court approval, against officials in Tenaha and Shelby County, where it is estimated police seized $3 million between 2006 and 2008 in at least 140 cases. Police officers routinely pulled over motorists in the vicinity of Tenaha without any legal justification, asked if they were carrying cash and, if they were, ordered them to sign over the cash to the city or face charges of money laundering or other serious crimes.

Almost all of the stops involved Black and Latino drivers. None of the plaintiffs in the case were ever arrested or charged with a crime. The seized assets were used to enrich the defendants’ offices and themselves.

“This was a brazen case of highway robbery, plain and simple,” said Elora Mukherjee, a staff attorney with the ACLU Racial Justice Program.  “Law enforcement needs to focus on protecting the communities they serve, not on policing for profit.  This far-reaching settlement radically alters how officers in Tenaha and Shelby County can go about their daily duties and protects all motorists driving along Highway 59.”

The ACLU has found multiple instances of this happening across other states, but Tenaha represented some of the worst abuses in racial profiling and civil asset forfeiture. The suit, which was filed in 2008, detailed several instances of police pulling over motorists with no legal justification. In one instance, a Black man and his partner, a white woman, were detained during a 2007 traffic stop. In response to a question by an officer, they stated they had about $6,000 in cash. The officer threatened to charge the couple with money laundering and put their children, who were traveling with them, in foster care, if they did not sign papers agreeing to forfeit the money.

“What happened in Tenaha is not unique when it comes to abuse of civil asset forfeiture laws,” said Vanita Gupta, ACLU deputy legal director.  “Permissive civil asset forfeiture laws invite racial profiling. They incentivize police agencies to engage in unconstitutional behavior in order to fund themselves off the backs of low-income motorists, most of whom lack the means to fight back, without any hard evidence of criminal activity. It is no way to run our justice system.”

Texas law allows for the confiscation of personal property police believe is connected to commission of a crime. It also allows for police agencies to retain seized assets, though 2011 reforms in Texas’s civil asset forfeiture law no longer permit those assets to be used for increasing officers’ salaries without prior approval from the commissioners’ court or other governing body.

Under the consent decree filed today in the U.S. District Court in Marshall, police will now be required to observe rigorous rules that will govern traffic stops in Tenaha and Shelby County. All stops will now be videotaped, and the officer must state the reason for the stop and the basis for suspecting criminal activity. Motorists pulled over during a traffic stop must be advised orally and in writing that they can refuse a search.

In addition, officers are no longer using dogs in conducting traffic stops. No property may be seized during a search unless the officer first gives the driver a reason for why it should be taken. All property improperly taken must be returned within 30 business days.  And any asset forfeiture revenue seized during a traffic stop must be donated to non-profit organizations or used for the audio and video equipment or training required by the settlement.

Lawyers on the case include Mukherjee and Sarah Hinger of the ACLU, as well as Timothy Garrigan of Stuckey Garrigan & Castetter, David Guillory of Lone Star Legal Aid, and Stephanie Kay Stephens, Attorney at Law, all in Nacogdoches, Texas.

(Via Latest News)

Conservatives aren't doing Chick-fil-A any favors

Conservatives aren't doing Chick-fil-A any favors:

AP Photo/The Huntsville Times, Robin Conn

Yes, that's Antoine Dodson, in front of Chick-fil-A, on "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day," wearing a t-shirt with Antoine Dodson's name on it. I'll explain this below.

I was in Philadelphia last weekend when, at the behest of an elderly family member in from out of town, I was dispatched to 9th and Passyunk for an authentic Philly cheesesteak. Since she preferred cheesesteaks with the meat sliced in long strips as opposed to those which have it all chopped up, she asked me to go to Geno's Steaks rather than Pat's King of Steaks right across the intersection. I sighed deeply, and not because I thought Pat's sandwiches were better and she was making a mistake.

My issue, which she didn't know about, was with the fact that since 2006, Geno's had been displaying prominent signs outside its ordering window directed at the South Philadelphia neighborhood's Mexican immigrants, signs which read:

"This Is AMERICA: WHEN ORDERING Please 'SPEAK ENGLISH." (At least the word "please" is in there, right?)

I was living there when this controversy broke out, and I proceeded to consciously avoided Geno's. I hadn't thought to steer clear of it beforehand, even though I don't eat red meat or poultry. Now I did, because I didn't support (or being seen supporting) a business that was openly singling out a segment of its customers for ridicule. That feeling is one I recalled this week as I saw conservatives "come to the defense" of Chick-fil-A.

This all started, of course, because the fast-food chain's CEO, Dan Cathy, said this about those advocating for marriage equality:

"I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, 'We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,'" Cathy said. "I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about."

Cathy and Chick-fil-A aren't shy about siding with anti-LGBT causes, both with rhetoric and money -- all under the auspices of being a Christian business. The company's official credo displayed behind its counters reads,"To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A." That's why Cathy stood behind his remarks, despite the vitriol he elicited from folks like Boston mayor Tom Merino and Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, who both sought to block the construction of new Chick-fil-A restaurants in their municipalities.

That was a ridiculous reaction by those two, which Mother Jones' Adam Serwer and Kevin Drum both called out. But the matchhead had already been struck, and thus rushed forward the flames of conservative overreaction. Fox News personality and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee felt it the right time to tell people to engorge themselves with Chick-fil-A's fried delicacies.

And that they did, on Wednesday:

Chick-fil-A appears to have set a company record in sales on Wednesday, a day on which Americans were encouraged to show their support for the fast-food restaurant whose leadership has drawn both criticism and praise in recent weeks for its opposition to same-sex marriage...

"We are very grateful and humbled by the incredible turnout of loyal Chick-fil-A customers on August 1 at Chick-fil-A restaurants around the country," said Steve Robinson, executive vice president of marketing, in the statement. "While we don't release exact sales numbers, we can confirm reports that it was a record-setting day."

Even the openly gay Antoine Dodson of "hide ya kids, hide ya wife" Internet-viral video fame showed up to have lunch at a Chick-fil-A in Alabama, saying, "That's what freedom is. We don't all have to believe in the same things." (He'd also posted a video supporting the business last week.) Dodson is correct, if a bit naive, in saying that. I say naive because it was clear that the Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day was designed as a political statement. When Republicans like Huckabee, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (see below) use Chick-fil-A bags as signifiers, it means something entirely different.

Granted, they never said explicitly, "We're eating Dan Cathy's fried chicken because we agree with his conviction that gay marriage might very well damn us all," and that might be because the country's opinion on the issue is turning decidedly towards acceptance of marriage equality. The Washington Post's Jonathan Capehart cited a Pew poll just this week that gave further indication of that.

Republicans don't have to say exactly what Dan Cathy said in order to endorse his views. Encouraging an "appreciation" day sparked by those views is all that was necessary. They've now been successful in taking comments which some folks may have been willing to forgive, ignore -- or in Dodson's case, accept in the name of freedom of speech -- and branding the business with the Republican seal of approval. That alone will turn off some folks, but worse for the business is the fact that they're now the anti-gay place.

They might welcome that. Judging by Cathy's comments and the manufactured controversy that followed, they probably do welcome it. And yes, they had an awesome day of sales. But as more and more Americans embrace marriage equality, this will be a detriment to Chick-fil-A. Playing the long game hasn't been the strong suit of Republicans when it comes to cultural issues, and this is no different.

Oh, by the way: the signs at the Geno's windows were still up when I got there last weekend, along with another which read, "Dial 1 for English, Dial 2 for Deportation." And for what it's worth, the line at Pat's was a hell of a lot longer than the one at Geno's.

View Congresswoman Bachmann's message of support below.

(Via Melissa Harris-Perry |

Rachel Maddow: Mich. ‘Emergency Manager’ law up for referendum

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