All posts by ACLU of So Cal

Taking the Budget Dialogue to the Streets of LA: Community Members Grade the Governor


As budget “deal” rumors continue to fly, members of the Stop the Cuts! Coalition and California Partnership took to the streets and asked community members to “Grade the Governor” on his proposals to slash vital and much needed services and programs, including health care, education, and social services for the elderly, disabled and the poor.

Members of the group — including people from Health Access, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, 9 to 5 Working Women, Hunger Action LA, Planned Parenthood of Los Angeles, Children’s Defense Fund, ACLU of Southern California and other concerned community organizations — gathered at lunchtime at the intersection of Vermont and Wilshire on Thursday. Participants crossed the streets carrying oversized report cards showing the governor’s failing marks, and asked passersby to fill out the cards and grade the governor. 

Many passersby agreed that especially at this most uncertain time in the country’s financial state, it’s  unacceptable to make deep cuts that target the state’s most vulnerable residents.

Here are a few of the comments that community members made on the report cards. Overall, they indicate the governor’s grades on the budget need to improve:

“I would like to see him work harder to help the workers of Calif., as well as the corporations.  With special attention to Californians with special needs – disabled, seniors – and create good paying jobs.”

“[The Governor] needs to listen to our people.”

“He needs to prioritize what is important to the people of California before he starts laying people off. That won’t fix the situation; it’ll only make it worse.”

“The Governor is not in touch with the people, only with his pockets.”

“I think that he should not cut school programs and help the community to get more education.”

“Governor: You really need to help your people.”

“This Governor is a very uncompassionate person and seems to be very out of touch with the people of California.”

“I voted for him and have regretted it ever since.  He should take some of his millions from movies and give back to the state.”

“I’m without work and need those services. He needs to stop cutting jobs and education!”

“He’s making life hard for all America’s folks.”

Join the dialogue. Negotiations are moving fast in Sacramento. Call the Governor and California legislators now! Tell them they cannot fail California’s most vulnerable by balancing the budget with program cuts alone.

Call the Governor now at 916-445-2841 (Sacramento office) or 213-897-0322 (Los Angeles office).


US Citizen from California Held Abroad and Tortured. U.S. Involvement Suspected.

We’re working on a case now that will make your hair stand on-end.

Our client, Naji Hamdan, a U.S. citizen, was detained and tortured this fall for three months by the United Arab Emirates with United States involvement.  Naji is still in prison there, now under the custody of local officials who charged him with terrorism-related offenses based on coerced confessions.

Naji Hamdan

We’ve been lobbying our members of Congress and contacting the State Department but time is short!!  Help us pressure Secretary of State designee, Hillary Clinton to do something before she takes office. Naji’s story after the jump.

For over two decades, Naji and his family lived in Hawthorne, California, where he ran an auto-parts business and helped manage the Islamic Center of Hawthorne, a mosque and community center.  He was also monitored by the FBI.  The past two years were especially intense.  Naji’s brother, Hossam, and others who know him from his activities at the Islamic Center have all said that he’s a peaceful family man who would never support violence.

In 2006, Naji decided to relocate to the United Arab Emirates for business and family reasons.   This summer FBI agents traveled from Los Angeles to the U.A.E. to continue their questioning of Naji. Three weeks later he was taken into custody by agents of the U.A.E. state security forces and detained incommunicado for the next three months.  

His brother and his wife, Mona, also a U.S. citizen, were frantic. They contacted the ACLU/SC for help.  On November 26, 2008, one week after lawyers for the ACLU/SC filed a lawsuit alleging that the U.S. government was responsible for his detention, Naji was transferred from U.A.E. state security custody to the Al Wathba prison in Abu Dhabi where he remains to this day, charged with terrorism-related offenses.  

Recently, Naji was able to finally contact his family and an American consular official and told them he was severely tortured during his detention in U.A.E. state security custody and forced to confess to crimes that he did not commit.  

His torturers blindfolded Naji, so he couldn’t see them. They kicked and beat him to the point of Naji passing out. They strapped him into an electric chair, threatening its use. Naji heard some of the interrogators speak native English with an American accent. They asked him questions about topics only the U.S. federal agents would know.  

From all angles, his imprisonment looks like it’s been done at the request of the U.S. government, and his interrogation, which included severe torture, was done with participation of U.S. federal officials.  If the U.S. government requested or participated in his detention and torture in the U.A.E., the United States government has violated this U.S. citizen’s most fundamental rights.  

Naji’s situation is now urgent. If his prosecution is allowed to proceed in the U.A.E. based on evidence obtained through torture, Naji will receive a deeply unfair trial and unjust sentence.  

The policies of the current administration make appealing to Secretary Rice practically pointless.  Please help us urge Senator Hillary Clinton, President Elect Obama’s choice for the next Secretary of State, for Naji’s release and return to the U.S., where his rights can be protected.  If Naji has done something wrong, then the U.S. should charge him with a crime and prosecute him in the United States, where he can be assured his due process rights.  In addition, the role played by the U.S. government in causing Naji’s detention and torture must be thoroughly investigated.  Naji must be treated as all Americans deserve to be treated, with dignity and respect for their rights.

Thank you.

ACLU’s Must See No On 8 Video and GOTV Activities

If this doesn’t make you tear up, nothing will, you heartless bastard.

Please join the ACLU of Southern California and the No on Prop 8 campaign to help defeat this unfair initiative on Election Day.  This coming weekend (Nov. 1st and 2nd) we’re training volunteers willing to go to No on 8 friendly polling stations and make sure that our supporters remember to vote NO on 8, so there’s NO confusion.  The trainings will bring everyone from the Silverlake office together to discuss the Election Day plan, what to say to voters and to pick up polling place assignments.  Come down to the ACLU/SC office at 1313 W. 8th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90017 (right off the 110).  The training times are Saturday (11/1) from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm, and  2:00 pm to 4:00 pm, and Sunday (11/2) from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm and 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm.  

Email the intrepid Todd if you can make it.  [email protected]


Got Communism?

Welcome back to 1950!  Last night Gov. Schwarzenegger refused to sign into law SB1322 which would amend California’s communist era “loyalty oaths,” and would have eliminated references in state law to communism as cause for dismissal of school, community college and other public employees.

Citing people who fled communist regimes immigrating to the United States and their need to be protected, the governor said that we need to maintain “our responsibility to ensure that public resources are not used for purposes of overthrowing the U.S. or state government, or for communist activities.”

Got that?  So the fact that California spends four times as much on its prisoners than it does on its public school students isn’t a problem (witness our current state budget) it’s the possibility that Stalinist pinkos might be lurking among administrators and teachers that strikes fear.

Last month, we told you the ACLU/SC worked to help pass SB 1322, because of our commitment to free speech and freedom of religion. We had help from Cal State Fullerton faculty member, Wendy Gonaver, a Quaker and a Pacifist.  She was fired this academic year because of her refusal to sign the loyalty oath even though she offered to sign the pledge if she could attach a statement expressing her views. Cal State Fullerton rejected her statement and insisted that she sign the oath if she wanted the job. She was subsequently fired for upholding her religious beliefs.

Got that? California shouldn’t be concerned about the quality of its faculty. Teachers and professors need to sign what amounts to a flag pin pledge vowing they’ll take up arms in the event of an insurrection against our Constitution. As if they can get to Dick Cheney and David Addington from Cal State Fullerton.

Next time, maybe we ought to call Communism fattening.


Help the ACLU/SC Tell Gov. Schwarzenegger to Sign SB 1322 Amending California’s “Loyalty Oaths”

( – promoted by David Dayen)

California’s shameful practice of McCarthy era “loyalty oaths” is something the ACLU of Southern California knows something about.  Eason Monroe, the Executive Director of the ACLU/SC from 1952 to 1972 was fired from his teaching position at San Francisco State College in 1950 for not signing the newly passed “Levering Act” requiring public employees to affirm that they did not advocate overthrow of the government “by force or violence or other unlawful means.”

“I already had taken a positive oath to support the Constitution,” Monroe was quoted, “I felt the two oaths were in utter contradiction. How can you swear to uphold the Constitution and thereafter sign away your rights under the Constitution?”

Flash forward 35 years, long after the fall of Soviet era Communism to another firing, this time of Cal State Fullerton faculty member, Wendy Gonaver, a Quaker and a Pacifist.  She was fired this academic year because of her refusal to sign the oath which also requires swearing to “defend” the U.S. and California constitutions “against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”  She offered to sign the pledge if she could attach a statement expressing her views but Cal State Fullerton rejected her statement and insisted that she sign the oath if she wanted the job. She was subsequently fired for upholding her religious beliefs. “I wanted it on record that I am a pacifist,” said Gonaver, 38. “I was really upset. I didn’t expect to be fired. I was so shocked that I had to do this.”

The ACLU of Southern CA has been working to make changes to the loyalty oath so religious freedom can be upheld in the state of California. We saw victory last week in the Assembly and Senate and now SB1322 is on its way to the governor’s desk. Gov. Schwarzenegger hasn’t said if he’d sign the bill into law so Wendy Gonaver wrote him an open letter, urging his support.

“A healthy government does not require its people to put expressions of patriotism above faith, nor does it stifle dissent,” writes Wendy.

The ACLU/SC has created a petition to urge Gov. Schwarzenegger to sign the “Loyalty Oath Reform Bill,” SB 1322. Please help us build enough pressure to ensure the governor respects religious freedom and free speech. Sign the petition today.

Thank you for your support!

The ACLU of Southern CA

Senate Republican Leader Ackerman Sics CHP on Activists Advocating for Poor Families

Dick Ackerman, man of the people? Mmmmm not so much. Today more than 100 members of the California Partnership, a statewide coalition of community based organizations that fights poverty in California, flooded the offices of Republican leaders in California’s state Assembly and Senate to demand meetings and real solutions to California’s budget through fair tax policy.

People, not Yachts!  

Here’s a shot of CHP’s security officer telling everyone to buzz off.


Gov. Schwarzenegger is sending his May budget revise in later this week, so a last ditch effort was waged to negotiate the proposed drastic cuts to healthcare, education and California’s safety net for poor and working families. While Senate Assembly Minority Leader, Michael Villines’s chief budget negotiator met with activists for more than half an hour, Republican State Senate Leader Ackerman’s office refused to see anyone, and after two minutes of back and forth, staff called CHP officers to throw CA Partnership leaders out.

Activists from all over the state including the ACLU of So Cal brought hundreds of small plastic boats with them to symbolize the $26 million loophole created to coddle yacht owners while poor Californians risk losing vital programs that support families.

Have Fun Stormin the Castle!

A “cuts only” approach will not work. New revenue such as a corporate property taxes and closing tax loopholes for yacht owners must be part of the solution to the budget crisis.

Thanks for nothing, Dick.

Can You Hear Me Now NSA?

While congress fiddles with FISA, the California Assembly has the opportunity to add another layer of consumer protection to our phone records. Will they or won’t they? Will the telecom lobbyists make sure Sacramento does their bidding, or can we pressure our members to do the right thing?

If you?’ve ever had to wait in line at your local wireless store, you know how cell phone use has exploded over the past few years, and wouldn?’t be surprised to hear it’?s quickly outpaced the use of traditional, residential landlines. Privacy laws, however, haven’?t kept pace. Here in California, the law says telecoms can’?t disclose phone records without the subscriber?s written consent, but this law only applies to residential and not cell phone subscribers.

The ACLU of Southern California wants to change that, and predictably, the telecoms don?’t.

The Consumer Federation of California is sponsoring a new bill, AB 3011 (Huffman) which simply amends Public Utilities Code §2891 (put in place in 1986, before the cell phone era) by deleting the word ?residential.? In so doing, AB 3011 would clearly establish that the calling records and privacy of cell phone customers have the same protections as residential landline customers.

According to our friends in Sacramento, the telecoms are already meeting with assembly members and will hit this bill hard. The telecoms claim federal law is enough protection for Californians, or that amending an antiquated law is a waste of time and resources. But we know Verizon and AT&T fear accountability for participating in the NSA illegal wiretapping program, particularly if congress doesn’?t agree to retroactive immunity as part of the FISA reforms.

The ACLU-SC has a special stake in this debate. We, along with our other California affiliates filed a lawsuit last year on behalf of 17 individual plaintiffs and more than 100,000 ACLU members statewide against AT&T and Verizon to stop them from participating in the NSA?’s program. While we believe that cell phone records also were divulged, the lawsuit only includes residential landline customers as plaintiffs because it’?s not clear that existing law covers cell phone customers.

We must do something now to save our rights and protections.

Contact your Assembly member in the Utilities and Commerce committee on your cell phone before their hearing and vote on AB 3011 scheduled for April 28. They are:

Mike Davis (AD 48) – (213)-744-2111

Mervyn Dymally (AD 52) -? (310)-223-1201

Felipe Fuentes (AD 39) ?- (818)-504-3911

Warren Furutani (AD 55) – (562)-989-2919

Paul Krekorian (AD 18) – (818)-240-6330

These members will need to stand up to AT&T and Verizon on your behalf. Please urge them to do the right thing.

Let your voice be heard!