Wednesday, October 08, 2003

ACLU College Freedom Tour rolls into Madison & Statewide Student Convention - THE BADGER HERALD

by Matthew Dolbey
Wednesday, October 8, 2003

The American Civil Liberties Union College Freedom Tour stopped in Madison Tuesday at the Wisconsin Union Theater for a political forum. The ACLU is visiting eight college campuses this fall, encouraging students to become attentive to issues involving personal freedoms and shared civil liberties.

The all-day event in Madison offered an introduction to what the ACLU stands for. In the morning, ACLU hosted two activists for non-violent protest from different generations. One of the speakers, John Tinker, told students of his high school days in 1969 when he got in trouble for wearing a black armband to protest the Vietnam War. When Tinker was asked to remove the armband and refused, he was suspended, and he eventually appealed the case to the Supreme Court.

The other speaker, Bretton Barber, recalled for students the day last year when he was told to turn a t-shirt depicting President George W. Bush as an international terrorist inside out at his Michigan high school.

Workshops were available for both high school and college students throughout the remainder of the day as part of ACLU of Wisconsin’s first statewide student convention.

The events culminated with a political forum mediated by political satirist and writer Barry Crimmins and a concert featuring DJ Kuttin Kandi, Hip-Hop artist Mystic and Milwaukee-based band Black Elephant.

The political forum, an event used to showcase ACLU’s commitment to civil rights and hopefully increase ACLU membership, was comprised of two young adults that were ticketed by police at a rave in Racine, and their lawyers. The rave in question was a publicized fundraiser for a theater held during October of last year. Twenty-five Racine police officers and four federal marshals entered the dance hall at about 12:30 a.m. and issued 442 citations priced at $968 each to those present for being participants at a disorderly house.

Daniel Kushner, a DJ scheduled to play that night, and Jessica Brown, a raver just there to have a good time, both had their fines dropped with the help of Guenther and ACLU Legal Director Micabil Diaz.

“The good thing about the incident is that we got the city to admit that these activities are not illegal,” Diaz said, adding that youth activities are often targets of the law.

Before he introduced the participants of the forum, Crimmins criticized the current presidential administration for fifteen minutes, calling some republicans fascists, comparing Bush to Mussolini and calling the current situation in Iraq a quagmire.

UW sophomore and ACLU member Amanda Leipold was very happy with results of the forum.

“I thought the panel was great,” Leipold said. “Especially because the issue was local. ACLU is about representing kids so they can have a voice.”

She added that it is critical for ACLU to maintain a nonpartisan stance in its policymaking, which she feels it currently does.

Conversely, UW Junior Michael Gatzlaff believes ACLU has some agenda-setting tendencies.

“Liberal moderators and liberal agenda setting may result in liberal policies,” Gatzlaff said. “The moment the ACLU becomes partisan, it loses its legitimacy, in my mind anyway.”

Even though the ACLU assistance to the Racine ravers did not take sides politically, Gatzlaff mentioned that perhaps ACLU adopts cases due to left-wing political motivation in other cases.

“It’s not the case that matters sometimes, it’s why they took them up,” Gatzlaff said.

ACLU holds Freedom Tour presentation to raise student awareness about current political issues - THE DAILY CARDINAL

By Les Chappell
Published: Wednesday, October 8, 2003

Barry Crimmins is a political satirist and writer who spoke against President Bush at the American Civil Liberties Union forum Tuesday at Memorial Union.

Tuesday at the Wisconsin Union Theater, the American Civil Liberties Union held a presentation as part of the ACLU College Freedom Tour. The tour is part of the ACLU's efforts to raise awareness among college students about political issues, while at the same time designed to be free-spirited and entertaining.

Each show is essentially a forum, where a well-known, politically aware speaker moderates a presentation given by a group which has been involved in an issue defended by ACLU lawyers. The forum is designed to stimulate questions among the audience and is followed afterwards by a musical performance.

The presentation began with a monologue by the forum moderator, Barry Crimmins. A political satirist and writer, self-described as "facetious because I can spell it," Crimmins gleefully made full use of the First Amendment with comments such as, "What protects George W. Bush? Sane people can't listen to him for more than 30 seconds."

He also offered the president two new campaign slogans: "Elect Bush-just this once" and "Four more years-he needs time to find the weapons of mass destruction."

Crimmins, while offering witticisms, seriously addressed the ACLU and its goals.

"The point of this whole tour is the protection of liberty," Crimmins said, "that [the government] should stand up for the common good and not the private interest."

Following his speech, the forum began. The show revolved around a lawsuit in Racine last year, brought against a group of 440 people who attended a 'rave party' that was raided by the police. Despite a tip that drug use would be prevalent, very little was uncovered.

"They found a lot of aspirin, not a lot of ecstasy," said Erik Guenther, a Racine attorney who served as local counsel for the ACLU.

The police issued citations of almost $1000 to everyone present, using the excuse of a 'disorderly house' citation. The ACLU was contacted and took the case to court, eventually getting the charges dismissed.

"This case could not have been resolved if it wasn't for the resolve of the original attendees being able to stand together," Guenther said.

Crimmins closed by saying "Join the ACLU. Scare them!" and the session adjourned for the entertainment, featuring DJ Kuttin Kandi and the Milwaukee band Black Elephant.

Attendants spoke positively of the event.

"I'd never learn about this stuff from any major news source," said Memorial High School junior Jeff Wymore. "Very persuasive argument."