When an undercover officer saw Monica Jones, a black transgender woman, walking down the street just a few blocks from her house, in an area that the officer described as being “known for prostitution,” that was enough to convince him that she intended to engage in prostitution. It was on that basis that he approached and stopped her.

In April of this year, Monica was convicted of violating this overbroad and vague law. Today she appeals that conviction, and the ACLU, along with other advocacy and civil rights organizations, filed a brief in support of her appeal.

We #StandWithMonica because transgender women of color should be able to walk down the street in their neighborhoods without being arrested, or worse, for simply being themselves.

When Walking Down the Street is a Crime. Chase Strangio, ACLU

I heard my baby wailing and asked one of the officers to let me hold him. He screamed at me to sit down and shut up and blocked my view, so I couldn’t see my son. I could see a singed crib. And I could see a pool of blood. The officers yelled at me to calm down and told me my son was fine, that he’d just lost a tooth. It was only hours later when they finally let us drive to the hospital that we found out Bou Bou was in the intensive burn unit and that he’d been placed into a medically induced coma.

On Thursday, Feb. 26, Federal Judge John Kronstadt from Los Angeles, CA finalized the Lopez-Venegas v. Jeh Johnson case. The finalization of this case will allow thousands of Mexican nationals who were misinformed or coerced to sign voluntary departures a chance to return lawfully into the United States. The 2014 settlement stemmed from a lawsuit brought in June 2013 in Los Angeles by the ACLU of Southern California. They sued on behalf of 12 individual plaintiffs who were deported from the United States by Border Patrol or ICE officials who utilized coercion or deceit to sign voluntary departure forms. The ACLU SC filed on behalf of 3 organizational plaintiffs that used their resources in response to coercive voluntary departures. 2 of the 3 organizational plaintiffs are based out of the Inland Valley including the Pomona Economic Opportunity Center and the San Bernardino Community Services Center.

Today was the launch of our educational campaign to find potential class members. If you know anyone that might qualify please call the hotline # 619-398-4189 or for this in Mexico 01-800-681-6917

Nydia, a transgender woman, was granted asylum in the United States after repeated physical and sexual attacks in Mexico. Her protected status didn’t stop Border Patrol from twice deporting her to Mexico without a hearing despite verifiable evidence that she had asylum. Back in Mexico, Nydia was repeatedly attacked and raped, and then she kidnapped by a gang that trafficked her into the sex trade. She later successfully fled back to safety in the United States and applied for and was granted lawful permanent residence. “I didn’t know the immigration agents could have helped me,” Nydia said, recalling her previous attempts to enter the United States. “They had known all the reasons I was trying to come back to the U.S., and even knowing them, they sent me back.”

Read more at the ACLU report American Exile: Rapid Deportations that Bypass the Courtroom 

Homeless in Detroit allege they are being driven out of downtown

DETROIT — Charles Jones said he was walking around downtown here when a police officer pulled up in a scout car and ordered him to get in. Jones, who is homeless, was driven to a suburb 20 minutes away and left on the side of the freeway.

"They took my $6 and told me to get back the best way I can," said Jones, 46, who has been on the streets since 2009. "I walked down I-94 for hours."

Eventually, he said, some suburban police officers spotted him and gave him bus money.

That was last week and it was the third time it has happened to him this year, he said, adding he was also “taken for rides” in April and July.

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Photo: J.D. Pooley/Getty Images

Through his lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union, Mr. Snowden did not specifically address the government’s theory of how he obtained the files, saying in a statement: “It’s ironic that officials are giving classified information to journalists in an effort to discredit me for giving classified information to journalists. The difference is that I did so to inform the public about the government’s actions, and they’re doing so to misinform the public about mine.”

Fired for Being Trans

By Patricia Dawson

The day I got my driver’s license with the gender marked “F” and my new legal name was one of the best days of my life. I was assigned male at birth, and my parents named me Steven. But I’d known for many years that I am a woman, and now I had the identification to prove it.

That year also included many of the hardest days. My parents, who belong to a conservative church, disowned me. My next-door neighbor hosed me in the face with a chemical poison. And I was fired from the job that I loved – all because I am transgender.

I’m an electrician, and I was working at H & H Electric, a contractor in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The day after I got my new driver’s license, I told my boss that I am a transgender woman. He looked shocked. He told me that I was one of his best people and that he would hate to lose me. I was stunned that his first reaction was that he might have to fire me.

He didn’t fire me right away, but he didn’t let me come to work as a woman, either. He told me I couldn’t discuss my transition with anyone at work or use my legal name, Patricia.

Even though I didn’t say anything, people at work noticed that I was transitioning. My hair was growing out, and I’d started hormone therapy. Some of my co-workers were kind to me, but others were cruel. Twice, co-workers tried to sabotage my work. One of those instances could have caused an explosion that could hurt or even kill someone. Fortunately, I discovered it in time, and no one was hurt.

The more time passed, the more it became obvious that I am a woman. Eventually I felt brave enough to wear makeup and a blouse to work. I was on top of the world. I had a great job, and I was finally being myself. That week, my boss pulled me aside and said, “I’m sorry, Steve, you do great work, but you are too much of a distraction and I am going to have to let you go.”

I am not a distraction. I am a woman, and I shouldn’t be fired for being who I am. That’s why the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on my behalf arguing that firing me because I am transgender is illegal sex discrimination.

Even though federal law prohibits employers from hiring or firing people because of their gender, here in Arkansas and in 31 other states, there are no laws that explicitly tell employers that discrimination against transgender people is illegal. I’m here to make sure that transgender workers are judged on their job perf

A federal judge on Monday issued an injunction barring police from enforcing what became known as “the five-second rule,” in which protesters in Ferguson, Missouri could only stay still for that brief amount of time. U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Perry ruled that the statute was unconstitutional because it violated protesters’ freedom of speech rights, as well as due process.

“[T]he policy fails to provide sufficient notice of what is illegal and because it was enforced arbitrarily,” wrote Perry in response to a case brought by the ACLU.

In the aftermath of unarmed, black teen Michael Brown’s shooting death at the hands of a white Ferguson police officer, local police commonly relied on the rule as a crowd control tactic and even insisted that reporters had to be in the media staging area or keep walking. It led to one of the defining images from nights of upheaval in Ferguson: Bands of protesters marching along city streets, helping those who were elderly stay moving.

Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri, noted that such rules tend to increase tension when applied “haphazardly.” He add that “Judge Perry’s injunction is a huge win for peaceful protesters and those who believe in the rule of law.”

The police-enforced rule also prevented people from gathering on sidewalks, which also violated freedom of speech, according to Perry’s ruling.

“Citizens who wish to gather in the wake of Michael Brown’s tragic death have a constitutional right to do so, but they do not have the right to endanger lives of police officers or other citizens,” Perry wrote, adding that the ruling still allows officers to enforce refusal-to-disperse laws, one of the most commonly used charges used to arrest protesters in Ferguson. “The police must be able to perform their jobs, and nothing in this order restricts their ability to do that.”

Your rights as a photographer

Tips from the ACLU’s website to help you know your rights while photographing in public.

  • When in public spaces where you are lawfully present you have the right to photograph anything that is in plain view. That includes pictures of federal buildings, transportation facilities, and police. Such photography is a form of public oversight over the government and is important in a free society.
  • When you are on private property, the property owner may set rules about the taking of photographs. If you disobey the property owner’s rules, they can order you off their property (and have you arrested for trespassing if you do not comply).
  • Police officers may not confiscate or demand to view your digital photographs or video without a warrant. The Supreme Court has ruledthat police may not search your cell phone when they arrest you, unless they get a warrant. Although the court did not specifically rule on whether law enforcement may search other electronic devices such as a standalone camera, the ACLU believes that the constitution broadly prevents warrantless searches of your digital data. It is possible that courts may approve the temporary warrantless seizure of a camera in certain extreme “exigent” circumstances such as where necessary to save a life, or where police have a reasonable, good-faith belief that doing so is necessary to prevent the destruction of evidence of a crime while they seek a warrant.
  • Police may not delete your photographs or video under any circumstances. Officers have faced felony charges of evidence tampering as well as obstruction and theft for taking a photographer’s memory card.
  • Police officers may legitimately order citizens to cease activities that are truly interfering with legitimate law enforcement operations. Professional officers, however, realize that such operations are subject to public scrutiny, including by citizens photographing them.
  • Note that the right to photograph does not give you a right to break any other laws. For example, if you are trespassing to take photographs, you may still be charged with trespass.

read the entire article here

Before The Buffer Zones...

The ACLU collected police reports and testimonies that showed what it was like to go to reproductive clinics in Massachusetts before the buffer zones were in place.

Mother Jones highlighted some of these “horror stories,” which received little media coverage leading up to the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down buffer zones in Massachusetts on Thursday, June 26th. 

From Mother Jones: 

Gail Kaplan, a patient escort at the Boston Planned Parenthood clinic, speaking to the Massachusetts Legislature in 2007:

The protestors are moving closer and closer to the main door. They scream and block the way for the patients to get into the clinic. We fill out police reports almost every week regarding the way they encroach upon the door, but nothing has changed…They’re getting so close that patients are terrified to even walk into the clinic.

I have often been spit upon while escorting a patient into the clinic since they got so close to me while shouting their protests…When it rains, they bring these huge umbrellas and try to knock the escorts out of the way.

Michael T. Baniukiewicz, head of security for Planned Parenthood facilities in Massachusetts, in a sworn 2007 affidavit:

"Bad enough I was scared coming here, afraid I might get shot."

I have observed [two regular protesters] standing by the PPLM-Boston garage entrance in Boston Police hats and jerseys…I saw [them] wearing Brookline Police hats and jerseys while standing near the entrance to the parking lot in front of Women’s Health Services.

They carried clipboards and had patients write on clipboards. These patients appeared to be frightened and upset when they learned that [they] were not police. Patients informed me that they had provided their names, addresses, and telephone numbers.

Vanessa B. in a harassment incident report filed with Boston police, December 5, 1998:

One person was carrying a fake baby doll and was yelling, “It’s alive. You see what you’re doing!” Another person had a tape recorder and was playing a tape with a child crying, “Mommy, Mommy”…Bad enough I was scared coming here, afraid I might get shot…They made me scared, but they are not running me away because I have rights too.

Karen Caponi, a nurse practitioner and director of the Worcester Planned Parenthood clinic, speaking to the Massachusetts state Legislature in 1999:

One of our of physicians has been threatened with “I’m watching you” and “You won’t be smiling for long.”

Occasionally, anti-abortion-rights protesters attracted and clashed with pro-abortion-rights activists, making the situation even worse, as William B. Evans, a Boston police captain, says in a sworn 2007 affidavit:

"Even more egregious are the protesters who dress as Boston Police Department officers."

On approximately ten Saturdays in late 2006 and 2007, a pro-choice group that we called the “Pink Group” was particularly disruptive. They would go into the 18-foot buffer zone and they would push, shove, and step on other people’s feet in order to get a good position. When this pro-abortion group was present, the combined presence of the pro- and anti-abortion protestors within the 18-foot zone around the front entrance would effectively block the door.

Dianne Luby, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, speaking to the Massachusetts Legislature in 2007:

I see…protesters photographing and filming into patients and employees’ cars and taking photos of license plate numbers to post on websites.

Martha Coakley, Massachusetts’ attorney general, writing to the state Legislature in 2007:

Demonstrators regularly crowd facility entrances and surround women, facility employees and volunteers with graphic and discomfiting pictures of aborted fetuses, and shout at and taunt them calling them “baby killers” and “murderers.”

Even more egregious are the protestors who dress as Boston Police Department officers and approach women and their companions at close distance, pretending that they are escorting them to the clinic’s entrance, only to taunt them or force leaflets into their hands as they make their way to and from the healthcare facilities.

US Cops Seized More Than $2.5 Billion From Drivers Not Charged With Any Crimes

US Cops Seized More Than $2.5 Billion From Drivers Not Charged With Any Crimes

Image Credit:

Earlier this week the Washington Postreported on a massive shakedown that is being carried out by law enforcement officers across the United States. These cops are seizing property and cash from motorists driving on American highways, without charging them with any crime. The victims are forced to either forfeit the confiscated property or go to court to prove that…

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The tragic killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson Police Department has shocked his family, community, and the nation.

The public and the ACLU of Missouri have called for release of the police incident report on the shooting to resolve the dispute about whether the incident involved the excessive use of lethal force and illegal racial profiling, and to shed light on how many times and where on his body Mr. Brown was shot.

Instead of disclosing that information, the Ferguson Police Department today released approximately 30 seconds of surveillance footage and an offense/incident report concerning a reported shoplifting at a convenience store that police now alleged involved Brown about ten minutes before he was killed. Yet the Ferguson police chief’s own statement undermines the relevance of those disclosures. The officer who shot Mr. Brown, according to the chief, was unaware that he may have been a suspect in the shoplifting and stopped him because he was walking down the middle of a street.

The Ferguson Police Department’s actions appear misleading and remarkably cynical. They call into question the department’s commitment to ensuring an independent and impartial investigation into the killing of Michael Brown. The video and incident report released are of dubious relevance. The decision to disclose them suggests an attempt to assassinate Mr. Brown’s character by showing that he had roughly pushed a convenience store clerk on the day that he was killed. The one-sided and piecemeal disclosure of potentially irrelevant and prejudicial information, while continuing to withhold the critical police incident report that the public has demanded, suggests a desire to confuse rather than to shine a light on what happened.

Mr. Brown’s family and the public deserve better. The Ferguson police’s disclosures seem more like spin control than objective investigation. The department’s apparent attempts to impugn the character of a shooting victim while withholding potentially revealing information about the conduct of it’s own police officer makes a mockery of the concepts of fairness and impartiality.

Therefore, the ACLU calls for an independent and comprehensive federal investigation by the Department of Justice of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown. Without this, there can be no justice for the Brown family or honest conversation about excessive force, racialized policing, law enforcement accountability and transparency, and the kinds of systemic reforms that are critically needed to ensure fair and effective policing in Ferguson and throughout our country.

Using the restroom is not a crime

Need to use the restroom in Florida? Be sure to bring your birth certificate.

Florida state Rep. Frank Artiles just proposed a bill that would jail people for using the “wrong” restroom. This just isn’t right.

This bill is designed to target transgender people but could also impact gender nonconforming people, people with disabilities, and parents.

Laws like this one lead to more discrimination, harassment, and even violence against transgender people, an already marginalized community.

But we can stop Artiles. We stopped a similar bill in Arizona in 2013, and we can do it again. We just need a big enough outcry to let the Florida legislature know that we refuse to let bullying and discrimination become the law of the land.

Sign the ACLU petition today, and don’t let Florida turn discrimination against trans people into law.

It’s what you think it is.

The 4 Most Weirdly Passive-Aggressive Holiday Displays

#4. Woman Aims Christmas Light Middle Finger at Her Neighbor

Oh, and it’s the second year she did this. Last year, the local government ordered her to take down the finger, but eventually backed down when the ACLU stepped in to defend the display on First Amendment grounds. After all, what use is freedom of speech if you can’t use it to express your bitter dislike of your neighbors through festive, blinking obscenities?

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