The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana distributed over 1,200 pocket-sized U.S. Constitutions around downtown Indy, all in under 30 minutes. September 15 marked the ACLU of Indiana's precursor celebration to Constitution Day on the 17th.
We would like to thank our community partners who volunteered their time to hand out constitutions, register new voters and connect people with tangible ways that they can take action.
Community partners included:
• Planned Parenthood of Indiana-Kentucky
• Muslim Alliance of Indiana
• NAACP of Greater Indianapolis
• Common Cause of Indiana
• League of Women Voters of Indianapolis
• Immigrant Welcome Center
• Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana
• Exodus Refugee
• Jewish Community Relations Council of Indianapolis
• Indiana Undocumented Youth Alliance
• Women 4 Change
• Cummins Indianapolis Community Involvement Team
Hundreds rallying around Monument Circle. Thousands marching in the streets. Tens of thousands chanting at airports. Tens of millions stepping up to the ballot box. You may not always agree with their messages, their beliefs, or their choices. But, these Americans are embracing what has made our country great. Each in their own way, they are embracing our freedom and our obligation, under the United State Constitution, to Form a More Perfect Union.
Every year we at the ACLU of Indiana celebrate Constitution Day on September 17th.
We are a great country.
We have a genius Constitution that gives us the mechanisms with which to correct ourselves over and over again.
It gives us the values that guide us through that difficult process: Fairness, equality, and freedom.
It is a great system, though not perfect. And, it has held America together for over 200 years.
The ACLU has an important role to play in that system.
We help turn the words of the Constitution into action.
But the real work is with all of you, with all of us, with We the People
Over and over again, we must take to the street and to the ballot box to remind our leaders and our fellow citizens of the core values and dictates of the Constitution.
On the 230th anniversary of the signing of that miraculous, flawed and enduring document, its magic still isn't in the words; its magic is in the action it enables.
When a roomful of civil liberties activists—led by Roger Baldwin, Crystal Eastman, and Albert DeSilver—formed the ACLU in 1920, the U.S. Supreme Court had yet to uphold a single free speech claim. Now, with the work of the ACLU and the bravery of those with whom we have fought, the right to speak out, protest, and petition, without fear that government will shut us up because of the content of our speech, is baked into our American bones. Our union has made progress but isn't perfect yet.
In 1787, the founders of our country penned a document that became the bedrock of our democracy. But it has required attention, revision, care and growth. At its inception, the Constitution left out people of color, women, immigrants, LGBTQ people, the disabled, and others from its pages and protections. But slowly, first with ten Amendments, aka the Bill of Rights, and then more, the U.S. Constitution has changed the world's understanding of the freedoms and liberties government must cede to We the People. Included in this genius document is the exclusive power of our courts to interpret and apply the Constitution. Still, collectively, we haven't always gotten it right. We aren't perfect yet.
The ACLU has held every administration accountable to letter of the Constitution. And, we will hold this administration accountable too. The ACLU will fight for the fairness due immigrants. We will fight efforts to take away the rights of women to control their own reproductive health care. We will fight for full protections against racial discrimination, against discrimination on the basis sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion. We will fight to protect each American's vote and voice. We will fight because fairness, freedom and equality are baked into our American bones.
So when we celebrate our Constitution, we celebrate more than the remarkable document signed at the Philadelphia Convention. We celebrate that as a nation, a state, and a city, We the People can speak truth to power and fight for what is right.
Together, we celebrate the pursuit of a More Perfect Union.
-Jane Henegar, Executive Director of the ACLU of Indiana
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 24, 2017
INDIANAPOLIS -- The ACLU of Indiana filed a motion for summary judgement to finalize its victory on behalf of Syrian refugees seeking protection from war and deprivation. In 2015, the state of Indiana, under then Governor Mike Pence, attempted to prevent Syrian refugees from entering the state of Indiana by denying funding to agencies serving the refugees. The ACLU, on behalf of Exodus Refugee Immigration, successfully prevented the state's unconstitutional actions.
"Withholding funding from Exodus was an attempt to discriminate against particular refugees because of their nationality," says Ken Falk, Legal Director of the ACLU of Indiana. "Refugees coming into this country are extensively vetted and the state of Indiana provided no evidence to warrant usurping the federal government's authority or throwing aside constitutional protections. We are asking the courts to put this to rest."
In November of 2015, the ACLU of Indiana and the ACLU national filed a suit on behalf of Exodus Refugee after then Governor Pence issued an executive order to halt funding for the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Indiana. On October 3 of 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit affirmed a lower court ruling in favor of Exodus.
In part, the ruling says that the state on behalf of the governor "argues that his policy of excluding Syrian refugees is based not on nationality and thus is not discriminatory, but is based solely on the threat he thinks they pose to the safety of residents of Indiana. But that's the equivalent of his saying (not that he does say) that he wants to forbid black people to settle in Indiana not because they're black but because he's afraid of them, and since race is therefore not his motive he isn't discriminating. But that of course would be racial discrimination, just as his targeting Syrian refugees is discrimination on the basis of nationality."
"The constitution prohibits states from discriminating on the basis of national origin or religion," says Jane Henegar, Executive Director of the ACLU of Indiana. "The ACLU asks the courts to protect the rights of all, especially those made vulnerable by war and deprivation."
"While this case is but one victory in an ongoing campaign to fight back against religious and ethnic discrimination, it is an important one for Indiana and the many refugees that now call this state home," says Cole Varga, Executive Director of Exodus Refugee.
Exodus Refugee Immigration is a nonprofit corporation that receives federal money through the state's Office of Refugee Programs, located within the Family and Social Services Administration, to assist in resettlement of federally approved and screened refugees. The funds that they receive are used to assist with employment training, English language education and other services. Exodus settled 947 refugee arrivals in 2016, and 242 Syrian refugees in total since October of 2014.
The case, Exodus Refugee Immigration, Inc. v. Mike Pence, Case No. 1:15-cv-1858, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division, on Nov. 23, 2015 and was decided on Oct. 3, 2016.
On June 29, Aaron Bailey was pulled over and fatally shot by IMPD. Bailey was an unarmed person of color, whose tragic death demands action and accountability. Both IMPD and the FBI are in the midst of investigations. The ACLU of Indiana is grateful that Prosecutor Terry Curry has heard the concerns of the community and designated a special prosecutor to pursue the case.
At the ACLU of Indiana, we believe that Aaron Bailey, his family and the Indianapolis community deserve an examination of the facts that will expose both the truth and the path toward a safe community for all.
"None of the actions that we can take now will bring back the life that was taken, but we as a community and as advocates must do whatever we can to ensure this tragedy does not repeat itself," says Katie Blair, Director of Advocacy with the ACLU of Indiana.
The first steps toward transparency were taken with Curry's appointment of a special prosecutor and with local law enforcement's examination of their policing practices.
"We stand with the family of Aaron Bailey," says Jane Henegar, Executive Director of the ACLU of Indiana. "The recurring incidents of police actions, around the country, that harm people of color show the need for policing practices that serve and protect with fairness and without bias."
Police departments across the country engage in aggressive and selective enforcement disproportionately and unfairly in communities of color. The facts are undeniable and these tragedies need to stop immediately. We encourage and support IMPD in their stated intention to spend time and care revamping their training practices. We ask that they maintain this focus on fairness and impartiality for years to come.
While the ACLU of Indiana is not presently involved in litigation in this matter, the ACLU nationally demands transparency and the protection of our civil liberties. We are paying close attention to Aaron Bailey's case as more details come forward.
August 17, 2017
INDIANAPOLIS -- Today the ACLU of Indiana a filed class action lawsuit against the City of Indianapolis for unconstitutionally prohibiting homeless individuals from standing and gathering on certain public sidewalks downtown, while exempting those who are not homeless. The ACLU argues that the city's policy and actions, by selectively targeting homeless people, violate their clients' constitutional rights to due process and equal protection under the law.
On August 4, 2017 the city posted notice that homeless people remove themselves and their things from downtown underpasses within four days. Since that time, homeless persons have been prohibited even from standing or sitting, while the City allows people who are not homeless to remain without interference. The lawsuit is brought on behalf of Maurice Young, a homeless man and advocate in Indianapolis, and other homeless individuals who have been banned from standing or sitting on public sidewalks by the city's selectively-enforced declaration of emergency.
"The Supreme Court has repeatedly invalidated attempts to prohibit persons from gathering for innocent purposes," said Ken Falk, Legal Director of the ACLU of Indiana. "The right to do so does not depend on a person's housing status. The Constitution guarantees everyone equal protection under the law."
Mr. Young, who works with the homeless and often meets with them in these areas, sat down on one of the wide sidewalks under a downtown overpass and was told to leave by an officer with the IMPD, who said that homeless individuals could not sit or stand under an overpass. The ACLU of Indiana's suit argues that the policy and actions of the City of Indianapolis violate the Constitution.
"Homeless people such as Mr. Young deserve respect for their humanity and the full protection of the Constitution," said Jane Henegar, Executive Director of the ACLU of Indiana. "The City of Indianapolis is trying to make an end-run around the Constitution with a permanent state of emergency, but the rule of law still applies."
The lawsuit alleges that the city's definition of "emergency" is unconstitutionally vague, as is the city's prohibition on standing, sitting, or otherwise congregating on the sidewalks that are under the railroad bridges immediately north of South Street on Pennsylvania Street, Meridian Street, Illinois Street, and Capitol Avenue. The lawsuit further alleges that the city's selective enforcement only to homeless persons violates equal protection. The ACLU of Indiana is seeking declaratory and injunctive relief.
"All homeless people have rights and those rights must be protected," said Maurice Young, plaintiff and a longtime homeless advocate in Indianapolis.
The case, Maurice Young v. City of Indianapolis, Case No. 1:17-cv-02818-TWP-MJD, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division, on August 17, 2017.