The American Civil Liberties Union affiliate staff in San Francisco used to joke that they should open an office in Fresno. That never happened, but it sure seems like it did. The affiliate and the Fresno Area Chapter have been working together and working with other Central Valley organizations so much that the affiliate presence in the Valley has been almost constant in recent months.
In March, affiliate staff visited Merced, Modesto and Visalia on their Campaigns for Justice Tour and brought the tour to Fresno on March 9. There was a morning meeting with affiliate staff and chapter members with representatives from Stone Soup, Centro La Familia, Fountain of Youth, Barrios Unidos, the Central California Criminal Justice Committee, Californians for Justice (CFJ), the American Friends Service Committee, the National Network in Action and the Prison Moratorium Project (PMP)/Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB). At noon, we met with Fresno State students. And in the evening, there was a meeting with 37 ACLU members and other persons from the community.
On April 28, the ACLU won its lawsuit against the Fresno Police Department for not responding to a Public Records Act (PRA) request for the names of the officers involved in the Glen Beaty beating and for having a policy not to release names of officers. The original ruling was in favor of the City because the names were released in response to the lawsuit. But on April 28, the ACLU’s motion for legal fees went to court and the judge ruled that we were the prevailing party and awarded $91,950 in fees. I do not know if the City is appealing, but we surely struck a blow for transparency.
Abdi Soltani, the affiliate executive director, and two affiliate attorneys, Diana Tate Vermiere and Julia Mendoza, returned to Fresno on May 3 for a meeting with 21 community members about discipline in the Fresno Unified School District to follow up on the March 9 meetings. The affiliate has been working with the CFJ in its campaign for Education Without Barriers to combat Fresno’s high dropout rate by improving school discipline and being more relevant to students by including ethnic studies. The chapter joined with the CFJ on May 11 for a demonstration and appearance at the School Board to encourage the implementation of ethnic studies.
The chapter also participated with affiliate staff and Clovis Parents for Quality Sex Education in a meeting on May 12 about the illegal and medically inaccurate sex education curriculum used by Clovis Unified. The program goes so far as to tell seventh graders that they risk HIV/AIDS if they exchange earrings with a friend!
The chapter has been involved in numerous other local issues. Now we are looking forward to participating in the annual Rainbow Pride Parade and Festival on June 4. If you would like to march with the ACLU or help table with the ACLU, e-mail email@example.com.
With PMP/CURB, the affiliate and the chapter are also planning a Bring Back Balance Campaign event on June 17 at the State Building to encourage using prison and sentencing reform to cut the budget by almost $1 billion. Watch for details about that event.