Coming back from summer vacation a little red? The oppressive weather hasn't slowed us down.
In fact, this summer we're taking on some of the most controversial and challenging issues in Michigan: free speech, juvenile justice, racial profiling and government surveillance. Is it getting hot in here?
Spying on Americans?
Juan Cole is a writer, a professor at the University of Michigan and an outspoken critic of American foreign policy in the Middle East. During the Bush Administration, however, the FBI and CIA may have tried to paint him in a different light, illegally spying on the scholar in order to discredit him.
Investigating Americans and destroying their reputations for simply exercising their First Amendment right to criticize the president or his policies is a frightening violation of our Constitutional rights.
We've filed a lawsuit against the FBI and the CIA to find out exactly whether and how officials at the CIA, Justice Department and Bush White House observed and interfered in an innocent American's life (via the Detroit Free Press, Death and Taxes).
Free Speech in a Box
Free speech is alive and well in Genesee County Parks, breaking out of the 3 x 3 foot square some officials tried to box it in.
A woman collecting signatures to recall Governor Snyder was tossed out of an 135 acre park and told to only come back with a permit. She got the permit, returned and was told that she could petition in an isolated 3 x 3 square foot "Free Speech Area."
A judge agreed with us that the public parks are not Constitution-free zones, and immediately barred officials from banning protestors without a permit or requiring them to stay in designated areas (via the Flint Journal and the Detroit News).
Not the Good Kind of Map
In America, we don’t target neighborhoods based on the ethnic makeup of the people who live there or the types of businesses they run, right?
Well, according to an FBI operations guide we came across, FBI agents are told they have the authority to not only collect information but create actual maps of behaviors, cultural traditions and businesses in communities with concentrated ethnic populations. This smells of racial profiling.
We're demanding that the FBI and Department of Justice show us the records of how this policy has been used in local communities. Michiganders have the right to know what federal law enforcement officials are doing in our state and to be protected from abuses of power (via ClickonDetroit.com and the Michigan Messenger).
A Second Chance for Redemption
In a victory for children's rights, a federal judge gave us the green light to prove that sentencing kids to die in prison is unfair and unconstitutional.
We think it's time for a change in our state, which currently sentences those as young as 14 to life without parole. Ignoring the potential for rehabilitation condemning young offenders to a lifetime behind bars is more than just bad policy, it's cruel and unusual punishment (via the Detroit Free Press, Detroit News, and Michigan Messenger).
White House Endorses Respect for Marriage Act
The momentum against the Defense of Marriage Act shows no sign of slowing: the White House has formally endorsed the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal DOMA in its entirety.
Not only would the Respect for Marriage Act signal a move away from outdated and bigoted discrimination against LGBT couples, it would ensure that all married couples were recognized by federal law regardless of where they travel or move in the country (via the Blog of Rights).