All Articles Tagged "ACLU"
A settlement was reached this week that will compensate service members that participated in a class-action lawsuit for the pay they didn’t receive after they were discharged from the armed services under the now-overturned “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. According to The New York Times, the Pentagon has agreed to pay service members discharged after November 10, 2004 who were only given half pay when they were honorably discharged.
“According to the American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the action against the Defense Department, the half pay was the result of an internal policy adopted in 1991,” writes the Times. “Troops are entitled to separation pay if they are involuntarily and honorably discharged after completing at least six years of service. Separation pay is calculated based on years of active service and the service member’s monthly basic pay when at the time he or she was discharged.” In total, the story says the Pentagon failed to pay out $2.4 million to about 180 former service people.
Adding insult to injury, Colorlines writes that those discharged were disproportionately African American, female, or both. Quoting a 2010 Service Women’s Action Network report, the site says: “Even though black women comprise less than one percent of servicemembers, they represented 3.3 percent of all don’t ask, don’t tell discharges… According to a 2010 Service Women’s Action Network report, women were 15 percent of the armed forces in 2008, but comprised 34 percent of the don’t ask, don’t tell discharges.”
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed about two years ago. The law became an issue again recently when Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s Defense Secretary nominee, was asked to respond to questions about his support of LGBT rights in the military. He said he supports the repeal, though he made comments in 1998 about a candidate for ambassador that would indicate he has issues with the LGBT community.
In that recent letter, Think Progress quotes Hagel saying, “I know firsthand the profound sacrifice our service members and their families make, and if confirmed as Secretary of Defense, I will do everything possible to the extent permissible under current law to provide equal benefits to the families of all our service members.” (The quote includes the bold statement.)
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit against Morgan Stanley, charging the Wall Street financial institution with targeting black customers with risky loans that they couldn’t afford, then repackaging them and selling them to pensions and other large investors as securities. According to The New York Times, the lawsuit, filed in New York, alleges that the company violated The Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. They are seeking class-action status, saying that 6,000 homeowners in Detroit may also be victims.
The lawsuit is focused on loans made between 2004 and 2007 through the now-bankrupt New Century Financial Corporation. Customers and former employees have stepped forward with allegations. Wells Fargo and Bank of America have paid hundreds of millions of dollars to settle similar claims of discriminatory lending practices. Two years ago, Morgan Stanley paid $102 million to end an investigation into its mortgage lending practices in Massachusetts.
“African-Americans living in the Detroit area were 70 percent more likely to wind up with a subprime loan than were white borrowers with similar financial characteristics, according to an analysis, contained in the lawsuit, of New Century loans made between 2004 and 2006,” the Times reports.
“This is the first case of Main Street holding Wall Street accountable,” said Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU during a press conference available on the organization’s website. You can also download a copy of the organization’s report “Justice Foreclosed: How Wall Street’s Appetite for Subprime Mortgages Ended Up Hurting Black and Latino Communities.”
The National Consumer Law Center, which helped file the suit, is hoping this case will lead to others against other banks. “If successful, the lawsuit could inhibit the lucrative process known as securitization that has long lubricated Wall Street profits but was sidelined until recently by the financial crisis,” Reuters reports. Morgan Stanley, of course, denied any culpability and says the case will fail.
This is a very important issue for the black community as so much of black wealth and middle class status is tied to homeownership. Rubbie McCoy, pictured above, said during the press conference announcing the lawsuit that she was trying to keep the situation from her four children even as she fights to hang on to her home. She says the costs and fees for purchasing her home were “excessive.”
“Having a house was a way to keep my kids grounded,” she said, adding that she was told to “fudge” her income on her application.
Who else can remember getting their two-step on at the daddy-daughter dance?
Me neither. Getting my jig on to “Everybody/Backstreet’s Back” with my pops wasn’t really my thing. However, as the child of a father who spent more time slaving for the Chicago Public School system than he did showing up for basketball games, volleyball games and after-school activities, I relished the time I got to eat lunch with my dad and feel special during “Take Your Daughter To Work Day.” Plus, it was time out of school! Being that my dad always worked so hard, this school allowed quality time together was the beez-neez back in the day.
So maybe that’s why I was a little sad to hear that a School District in Rhode Island had banished the concept of all daddy/daughter, mother/son activities. Why? Because a single mother complained to school officials (the American Civil Liberties Union) that her child felt and was being left out of daddy-daughter dance activities because she doesn’t have a father or even father figure in her life. Feeling some sort of pressure, the superintendent of the Cranston, Rhode Island school district, Judith Lundsten, decided to ban all parent-child activities, with the ACLU even following up to say that such activities were actually a form of gender discrimination. Say wha? The ACLU statement, which we obtained through CNN, was released saying the following:
“The school district recognized that in the 21st Century, public schools have no business fostering the notion that girls prefer to go to formal dances while boys prefer baseball games. This type of gender stereotyping only perpetuates outdated notions of ‘girl’ and ‘boy’ activities and is contrary to federal law.”
Parents seemed to have a mix of opinions on this decision, with some, as you’ll see in the WPRI video below, seeing it as a “travesty” and others thinking that as times have changed, activities like this do need to change as well–or be done away with.
Talk about a sticky situation. I can somewhat understand what the ACLU is trying to say, but to ban ALL parent-child activities seems like a horrible idea to me. Why not make the dances shindigs for both moms and dads, as well as sons and daughters? Why not keep the baseball games and not make it gender specific? To ban it all seems like an overreaction, one that will put unnecessary heat on a parent who sounds like they just wanted everyone to be included in such specialized events, and punish mothers and fathers who want to partake in these activities. I think we all know that in this day and age, having events like this while kids are young, even if it’s something the school forces, helps more than it hurts, and it’s definitely needed in a time where people seem to be losing control and grasp of their children (see all the youngsters gangbanging in the Chi) and teen mothers have become common. Shoooooooot, we need as much daddy-daughter, mother-son time together as we can get, and if school officials can just make it a parent-child dance, baseball game, or take your child to work event, even better. But to cancel it all? What’s up with that?
What do you think? Should they have canceled all parent-child activities? Was the mother wrong for speaking out or was the school district tripping?
Photos courtesy of Black Celeb Kids
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Alonzo Ashley, 28, died at the Denver Zoo on July 18 after several police officers responded to a domestic violence call placed by keepers at the institution. Zoo employees claim that Ashley had threatened his girlfriend (who will only identify herself to the media as “Elaina”) and attacked a security guard; therefore, he needed to be restrained.
Elaina disputes the claims of the police, saying that Ashley was attacked by up to a dozen officers and tased for merely splashing water on his face from a water fountain. After being tased Ashley stopped breathing, and was dead one hour later.
Local leaders are pressuring city officials to end what they see as a pattern of deadly violence emanating from Denver’s police force cutting deeply into the black community. A year previously, Rev. Marvin Booker was accidentally killed while in police custody. Activists, such as ACLU spokesman Rosemary Harris Lytle, are crying out for an end to these injustices:
“Should the police have used a taser at all? Was there a way to diffuse the situation so that the force of more than a dozen police officers and security personnel would not have to be used? Could the police have utilized tactics that would have prevented the worst possible outcome: The death of another Denver resident after an encounter with the police? These are questions that must be answered. They must be answered by police leaders and by the city’s leader,” Harris Lytle insisted.
“This is why the ACLU has called on Mayor Michael Hancock to make ending police brutality and the excessive use of police force the No. 1 priority of his administration,” she added. “And this is why we’ve asked the Department of Justice to launch an independent investigation of police practices in Denver.”
The recently-inaugurated African-American mayor of Denver, Michael Hancock, has told the community that the incident is being investigated.
This pattern of black men being “accidentally” killed by cops is a sorrowful national trend, with stories appearing again and again, year after year. Amadou Diallo. Oscar Grant. Sean Bell. Alonzo Ashley is yet another victim of over-zealous cops destroying life in the name of protection.
Few people in power want to address the internalized racism and poor training of police that lead to cruel deaths affecting only black men. They fall prey to “accidental” killings at an overwhelming rate compared to any other group. If that fact alone is not enough indication of a crisis, it is unclear what could be more compelling.
Police organizations nationwide must be revamped to protect African-American males from the dangers of trigger-happy police — even if that trigger fires a taser. Otherwise, all government leaders will continue to be complicit in these ongoing crimes.
(Cleveland Plain Dealer) — The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio says a pending Cleveland law banning the use of social media to incite disturbances is unconstitutional and should be repealed. The ACLU said Friday that it had sent a letter to City Council President Martin J. Sweeney, expressing “serious concern” about a law that the council approved Wednesday. A news release from the group called on the council to immediately repeal the ordinance, which still awaits the signature of Mayor Frank Jackson.
(Chicago News Cooperative) — Powerful Ald. Edward Burke (14th Ward) said Wednesday he is open to reducing the scope of aproposal to mandate random drug testing for all city employees, including aldermen. Burke and Ald. Patrick O’Connor (40th) proposed the ordinance earlier this month after a Streets and Sanitation driver struck a crowd of people downtown while driving under the influence. The plan has been met with criticism from the Illinois chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
(AP) — New Mexico Congressman Steve Pearce is calling on the Inspector General of the U.S. National Guard to investigate alleged racial discrimination within the New Mexico National Guard.
(Chicago Tribune) — The Illinois chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint today asking the federal Department of Justice to investigate the Illinois State Police’s use of consent searches, arguing officers unfairly target minority drivers for search during traffic stops. The civil rights group has long pushed to ban such searches, citing data collected by the state that shows Hispanics and African Americans were two to three times more likely to be searched for contraband even though white motorists were more likely to be found in possession of drugs, alcohol or weapons.
By B. Hutson
In April, news broke about the Michigan State Police using data extraction devices to pull data off an arrestee’s smartphone, but only with a warrant. According to CNN, more states are beginning to favor the option of not only being able to search an arrestee’s cell phone, but the procedure is permitted to happen without a warrant.
There have been an increasing number of incidents to demonstrate the growing popularity of this policy. For instance, in California, it became legal in January for police to search an arrestee’s cell phone without a warrant; in Florida, an appellate court decision upheld warrantless cell phone searches, defining the phone as a kind of “container;” and in Georgia, there was an appellate court decision to uphold a warrantless search of a cell phone found in an arrestee’s car.
Civil rights advocates are fighting back though. Catherine Crump of the American Civil Liberties Union told CNN that, “the police can ask you to unlock the phone—which many people will do—but they almost certainly cannot compel you to unlock your phone without the involvement of a judge.”
State and local police officers are taking the initiative to search arrestees’ cell phones because in some cases, such a search produces information that is relevant to an alleged crime, thus leading to indictments and convictions. While this may be a valid argument, what’s to happen in the event that police decide to access an arrestee’s cell phone, but that person was wrongfully arrested? So it appears that a person’s right to privacy can go out the window regardless if they are innocent or guilty.
(Salon) — What’s good for the police apparently isn’t good for the people — or so the law enforcement community would have us believe when it comes to surveillance. That’s a concise summary of a new trend first reported by National Public Radio last week — the trend whereby law enforcement officials have been trying to prevent civilians from using cellphone cameras in public places as a means of deterring police brutality. Oddly, the effort — which employs both forcible arrests of videographers and legal proceedings against them — comes at a time when the American Civil Liberties Union reports that “an increasing number of American cities and towns are investing millions of taxpayer dollars in surveillance camera systems.” Then again, maybe it’s not odd that the two trends are happening simultaneously. Maybe they go hand in hand. Perhaps as more police officers use cameras to monitor every move we make, they are discovering the true power of video to independently document events. And as they see that power, they don’t want it turned against them. But wait — why not?