Year In Review 2011-2012

The Year in Review: 2011-2012

by Marty McReynolds, Chair

The Occupy Movement energized activists across Sonoma County in 2011 and our ACLU Chapter worked to support the right of all citizens to make their demands known through peaceful protest.

We set up a tent on the Santa Rosa City Hall lawn in October as a place to provide legal guidance (but removed it before police swooped in November 22nd to oust the protesters who had camped on the lawn for several weeks). Board Member Steve Fabian addressed a number of General Assemblies on their rights and Judith Volkart and he met with Occupy activists and served as advisors to the Occupy Santa Rosa Legal Committee. Board Member Roland Jacopetti and I donned green armbands and acted as legal observers at marches and demonstrations, and I spoke to the Santa Rosa City Council on the value of promoting free speech, even at the cost of some trampled lawn.

Our chapter also continued to work on other issues affecting the county, including immigrant rights, police accountability and marriage equality.

This year we were active in obtaining over 600 signatures on petitions for the ballot measure known as the “Savings, Accountability, and Full Enforcement for California Act” – SAFE California, that would replace the death penalty with life without parole in California.

Last month the SAFE California campaign announced the filing of 800,000 petition signatures — far above the 504,000 required to qualify the SAFE California Act for the November ballot.

Our appeal for new members of the Board of Directors was met by the infusion of new blood. Joining the board were Heather Burke, Omar Figueroa, Raquel Gomez, Roland Jacopetti, Jackie Leonard, Imam Ali Siddiqui and Dick van Aggelen.

Heather and Omar are lawyers dealing with civil rights issues in Sonoma County.

Raquel is an energetic immigrant-rights activist.

Roland is well known to listeners of KRCB Radio, where he conducts the Sonoma Spotlight interview program and Something Completely Different, a music program with a wide range of musical genres. He’s also a longtime civil rights activist.

Jackie is an enthusiastic force in the Occupy Movement.

Ali has a long history of activism and is a leader of interfaith unity. On March 30 he was the keynote speaker at the Sixth Annual Unity Conference dinner of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance in Jackson, Mississippi.

Dick is applying his banking know-how to the treasurer’s position, following Marcus Borgman, who continued to serve faithfully throughout the year while awaiting his replacement on the board.

Continuing on the board are Steve Fabian, Evan Livingstone, Nancy Palandati, Judith Volkart and yours truly.

Worth noting is the untiring work of former board members Victor Chechanover and Wayne Gibb. Victor fields all the phone calls to our Hotline (765-5005) and relays the callers’ concerns to the board of directors. Wayne does the same thing with e-mails received at aclu@sonic.net. Both of them keep our feet to the fire to make sure we respond to the queries.

Attorney Bruce Kinnison has provided friendly guidance on dealing with problems encountered by inmates at the Sonoma County Jail.

Our Chapter continues its active support of the Police Accountability Clinic and Helpline (PACH), a volunteer group based in Santa Rosa that documents police abuse in the county. Board member Evan Livingstone and I are co-founding members of PACH and participate actively in its efforts.

The Chapter continued its active tabling around the community, tabling at the Petaluma Progressive Festival, farmers markets, Occupy’s Spring Awakening.

Chapter Board Members Heather Burke, Judith Volkart, Ali Siddiqui and I attended a three-day retreat and lobbying session in Sacramento April 14-16 that brought together activists from the ACLU of Northern California, Southern California and San Diego-Imperial County – the first time for such a statewide gathering.

The Chapter continued to send out speakers to talk to school classes and community about civil liberties issues and the ACLU, and distribute thousands of wallet-size cards titled Your Rights and the Police, in English and Spanish. The cards are regularly distributed at the Public Defender’s Office, Peace & Justice Center, the Sonoma County Juvenile Hall, labor centers and to youth and at-risk groups who congregate in downtown locations, to other local community groups to distribute, and at events where our Chapter tables. If you are a teacher or belong to a group that would like to hear about the ACLU or a civil liberties issue, contact us.

I am proud to announce the revamping of our chapter website (www.aclusonoma.org) which contains more content on civil liberties issues, and an up to date calendar of events. Be sure to check it out.

This upcoming year will prove to a busy one with the death penalty initiative, the fight against laws aimed against immigrants and many other civil liberties issues. Play a part. Contact us to volunteer.