2016 Annual Report
A key to ACLU of Maryland’s impact is the intersection between civil liberties and civil rights that characterizes our work. Again and again, we see that when an individual’s rights are violated, a larger community is affected. And when we take up cases or campaigns that address more than one threat we are able to create a greater, more long-lasting change.
The First Amendment was under threat when activist Kwame Rose was wrongfully arrested during a protest following the announcement of a mistrial in the case that charged Baltimore Police Officer William Porter in the death of Freddie Gray. But Rose was initiallytargeted for arrest because he had been organizing support for greater accountability in cases of police misconduct. Throughout the history of the nation, and recent history in Maryland, when the state police spy on the activities of peaceful protestors, ACLU has been a watchdog at the intersection of police abuse of power and the freedoms of speech and association promised in the First Amendment.
This year also saw a unique coming together of issues that ACLU of Maryland has long cared deeply about – access to affordable housing, equitable development for minority communities, and fair investment in public education. All of these arose when the developers of an upscale Port Covington in Baltimore asked the government to underwrite them with massive $660 million “Tax Increment Financing.” ACLU played a lead role in a large, diverse coalition that fought for a 21st Century model of how to benefit an old, rust belt, racially and economically segregated city by creating both a brand new racially and economically diverse community and an economic engine that would generate inclusive growth and shared prosperity.
Time and again this year, ACLU’s work highlighted issues that implicate multifaceted rights and liberties. The vulnerability of migrant farm workers to employment abuse is exacerbated when police block them from their First Amendment right to speak with Legal Aid attorneys at a Montgomery County farm . The rights of LGBT students are threatened when a Harford County school blocks them from inviting others to join their Gay Straight Alliance, where they feel welcome and supported. And the rights of poor, primarily Black communities in Baltimore to live free of government encroachment on their privacy are trampled by aerial police surveillance, which is compounded by the spying’s being run in secret, with no accountability to the Black communities being targeted.
We are reminded of our mission: “The Maryland ACLU works to ensure that all people in the state of Maryland are free to think and speak as they choose and can lead their lives free from discrimination and unwarranted government intrusion. We are guided in our work by the United States Bill of Rights and the Maryland Declaration of Rights. The Maryland ACLU acts without partisanship to achieve these goals.”
One of the reasons why ACLU of Maryland earns respect is that intersection of civil liberties and civil rights that we have long valued and prioritized through coordinated action. Thanks to our members and supporters, we can continue to make a difference in the lives of individuals and communities facing injustice in our state.
Coleman Bazelon, Board President
Susan Goering, Executive Director