I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. —Attributed to Voltaire
I’m a long-time admirer of the ACLU, and its New York branch, NYCLU. I admire them because I understand their mission. Apparently many people do not.
Today I looked at their Spring 2012 news bulletin and realized that just quoting two of the headlines makes a succinct point about the NYCLU and the diverse causes they represent. If you have a right-wing prejudice against the ACLU, be warned: what follows should alter your perception.
Class Action Lawsuit Challenges NYPD Patrols of Private Apartment Buildings
Imagine facing the threat of a police stop anytime you entered or left your home to check your mail or go to the store. Picture a mother who must keep watch from apartment windows to make sure police officers don’t throw her son against a wall and search him for no reason.
These scenarios take no stretch of the imagination for residents of River Park Towers, a private Bronx apartment complex enrolled in Operation Clean Halls, a program that extends the NYPD’s discriminatory stop-and-frisk practices into thousands of private apartment buildings citywide. The program permits police officers to patrol the premises of privately owned building, forcing residents to live under the constant threat of being stopped, frisked, harassed and even arrested in their own homes.
“If you are 30 and below and a minority, they are definitely going to stop you,” said Tony Ledan, resident of River Park Towers. “I see them every day going into their pockets, telling them to take their pants down, taking them in the staircase and searching them in the staircase.”
My comment: yes, you expected this of the NYCLU, didn’t you? Indeed, you’ve probably read about this lawsuit and the NYPD policy that caused it. But did you know this?
NYCLU Stands behind Bronx NYPD Officer and Against Punitive Quota System
For 14 years NYPD Police Officer Craig Matthews received positive annual reviews. But that was before he questioned an unlawful quota system within his own precinct that pressured officers to write summonses, make arrest, and conduct stop-and-frisks. In February the NYCLU filed a federal lawsuit challenging the repeated retaliation against Matthews for having disclosed the illegal quota system in the 42nd Precinct in the Bronx.
Since reporting the system to the precinct’s commanding officers, Matthews has been given punitive assignments, denied overtime and leave, separated form his longtime partner, given poor evaluations and subjected to constant threats.
The ACLU isn’t left wing. It isn’t right wing, either. It is your wing man. It is a-political. It will consider representing anybody whose civil rights have been violated.