Wednesday, October 08, 2003

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."


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